Arsenal have confirmed their place in the next stage of the UEFA Champions League, despite a 2-0 defeat against Napoli in a hostile game in Naples, as Arsene Wenger’s side scraped through by the skin of their teeth against the Italians.
The Gunners tried to settle into the game early on, with both sides jostling for possesion in the midfield, as the Gunners were forced to defend for their lives as the Italian’s looked to hit Arsenal on the counter, with Spanish maestro Jose Callejon dictating the play.
Napoli, who knew their result in their own fixture may not be enough to see them through to the knock out stages, as German side Borussia Dortmund needed to match Napoli’s result in the south of France, as Jurgen Klopp’s side faced Marseille.
Olivier Giroud saw his shot well saved by the Napoli goalkeeper.
As the first half drew to a close tempers started to fray but not before Christian Maggio had chipped over the bar after Wojciech Szczesny had norrowed the angle, as the gunners hung on heading into the break, in a feisty affair.
But the Polish goalkeeper almost conceded a howler, as a routine pass back was played to Szczesny on a rather bobbly surface in Naples, as the keeper smashed his clearance straight at Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain who put his header wide of the post, as the Napolitains dominated the game.
Both sides took to the field after the break and focused on attacking, with Olivier Giroud wasting a guilt edge chance early on in the second half.
Arsenal attempted to play free flowing football, as Santi Cazorla dictated the play in the middle of the pitch as Arsenal looked to counter.
Napoli came forward on the attack, as Napoli midfielder Pablo Armero broke through by failed to beat Szczesny with a tame shot, straight at the Polish shot stopper.
Gonzalo Higuain also forced Szczesny into a decent save as Napoli looked even more dangerous.
Arsene Wenger brought Aaron Ramsey on for Santi Cazorla with 20 minutes to go but Napoli continued to push and took the lead in the 73rd minute.
Arsenal thought they had done enough to stop the impressive Higuain, however the Argentine scored a superb goal for the host’s, as the striker turned brilliantly inside the penalty area and fired home past a beaten Szczesny.
Arsenal’s chances took a real blow as Mikel Arteta was sent off for a clumsy tackle, which lead to a second bookable offence and when Dortmund scored late to go ahead in Marseille a single-goal victory was no longer enough for Napoli.
Napoli pressed and were able to add one further goal as lively midfielder Callejon skipped Jenkinson and chipped the ball over Szczesny to make it 2-0, but Napoli will have to settle for a spot in the Europa League.
Arsenal defender Per Metersacker stated to sky Sports
“We were always on the back foot, we took a little break today I think but we will be back on Saturday. It’s always the same, you give 10% less mentally because we knew we were through.”
Manager Arsene Wenger also added.
“We are happy to be through because it was very difficult. We took it very seriously but in the second half we dropped physically a lot, we had a game on Sunday. Naples played very well tonight but we were a little bit on edge for some minutes, it was nervous in the end, but we got through.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Mikel Arteta’s red card: “He’s absolutely convinced that he didn’t make a foul and it was very harsh but he already had a yellow card. It’s always difficult in the middle of the park. I felt it was a very harsh second yellow card.”
By Ben Reardon