By Walter Broeckx
A few changes compared to our last match at Watford. Maitland-NIles and Sokratis come in at the back and Mustafi drops to the bench. Sokratis who is suspended in the PL so a no brainer for the swap with Mustafi who has to play in the PL next Sunday. 5 at the back with Kolasinac at the left flank. Özil also is placed on the bench and Lacazette comes in so we have the Aubameyang-Lacazette pairing upfront supported by Ramsey.
Arsenal team at the start: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
On the beach: Subs: Leno, Mustafi, Elneny, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi.
Napoli trying to use the long ball in the opening minutes a bit like they did at the Emirates during the match but the balls went to Cech. Lacazette with a nice turn starting an attack but the passing the penalty area just not good enough to get in a shot. Xhaka with a free kick that is punched away by the keeper but Ramsey his rebound shot goes wide. Arsenal with a good attack on the flank but again the shot is blocked. Arsenal trying to play forward when they can and now putting Napoli on the back foot for a few minutes. The Napoli forwards running in offside positions when they use the long ball. Both teams had their little spells but no score so it is 0-0 after 15 minutes.
Arsenal get a corner and then lose the ball and Napoli can counter but Cech with a good reaction of his foot stops Insigne’s effort. That was the first real chance of the match. Then Arsenal counter but Aubameyang his cross towards Lacazette is cleared by a defender. But Arsenal now under a bit of pressure. Up front a few misunderstandings when we looked in promising positions so our attacks lead to nothing. Napoli score but the flag had gone up for a correct offside call. Xhaka is fouled but the ref tries to give an advantage but it leads to nothing. Xhaka needs some treatment but can continue. Napoli finding some openings but the header goes well off target. Aubameyang with a shot but straight at the keeper. Arsenal had a difficult period but still 0-0 after 30 minutes.
Oh fuck Ramsey pulls up his hamstrings and goes down. His match is over and he goes off. Mkhitaryan comes on in his place after 33 minutes. Lacazette is fouled some 10 meters outside the Napoli penalty area. Xhaka and Lacazette behind the ball and it is the Frenchman who takes it and the bal goes in! GOAL! 0-1 to The Arsenal after 36 minutes. We lead 0-3 on aggregate! What a great free kick!
Lacazette with a low cross towards Aubameyang but the ball was too sharp and hobbles out. A header at the other end but the ball goes harmlesly over. Napoli trying to do something about the score before the end of he first half but so far no shots that are dangerous. Insigne gets a yellow card for dissent after a handball was given against him. Cech with a kick that goes to the halfway line and is kicked back immediately but he is back to claim the ball comfortably. 4 minutes of extra time in the first half with a few injury treatments like the one with Ramsey. Arsenal now really under pressure by Napoli who try to get one back before the break. Napoli can’t create anything and are not happy with the ref and they keep on moaning like they did all match during the match against the ref. Trying to put him under pressure for the second half? 0-1 after 45 minutes. 0-3 on aggregrate.
Napoli has a first shot but meters over the goal. Mkhitaryan with a great ball to the completely umarked Aubameyang but the keeper with a stunning stop and he palms the ball over. That should have been a second goal. Just as in the first half a few slips from Arsenal players but Napoli can’t take advantage. They have most of the ball but no real openings. Let’s keep it that way. Aubameyang tries to set up Lacazette but a defender can stop his cross. Napoli again has the ball in the net but again a clear offside that is seen by the assistant so it doesn’t count. Lacazette has his ankle clipped but the ref gives a corner, it looked accidental. The corner goes to the far post but the attempt from Aubameyang is kicked away by the goalkeeper. Insigne suddenly in space and the offside not given but his shot is tame and straight at Cech. Arsenal still 0-1 in front after 60 minutes. 0-3 on aggregrate.
Elneny comes on for Xhaka after 61 minutes. Maybe something to do with the fact he has a yellow card behind his name? A header from Napoli after a corner but not really close to the Arsenal goal. A shout for a penalty for Napoli when a cross hits the arm of Torreira who was on the ground but the ref is not interested. A shot on the turn from Milik but Koscielny with a foot on it. The corner leads to nothing apart from a few angry words against Koulibaly and Sokratis but they all stay friends in the end. After 67 minutes Lacazette goes off and Iwobi comes on. Arsenal now a bit more defensive in their setup. And Napoli pushing us back around our penalty area. But so far mostly harmless attempts. I better shut up as a cross finds Milik but he completely misses his effort and Cech who slipped can pick the ball up easily. Cech gets a yellow card for time wasting. Still 0-1 afer 75 minutes. 0-3 on aggregrate.
Napoli trying but a shot goes wide. Torreira in some pain and needing treatment but don’t know what happened. I think he got something where most man don’t like it up them. Iwobi and Aubameyang combine but it leads to nothing. The wing backs now stay behind most of the time so no real attacks from Arsenal with some 10 minutes to go. A cross goes past everyone and hits the knee of Monreal but Cech with a fine stop to prevent an own goal.
Arsenal conceding a few corners but can clear them with a lot of hard work. Iwobi has a shot against the post but he came back from an offside position. Iwobi the man who releaves the pressure from time to time with some strong runs forward. Koscielny with an acrobatic effort that stopped a dangerous attack but it could have gone anywhere. 5 minutes of normal time to go. Napoli seems to accept the fact of being out and maybe just hope to avoid the defeat on the night now. Iwobi really impressive in the time he has come up. Callejon fouls Kolasinac just outside the Napoli penalty area and gets a yellow card. End of normal time now. 3 minutes of extra time is indicated. One can say Arsenal is in the Europa League semi final now.
A stunning free kick from Lacazette paved the way tonight for a hard fought win in Napoli. But more important is the fact we will play Valencia in the semi final. Just as last year a Spanish team in the semi final.