Arsenal: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Torreira, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Mustafi, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Suarez
Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira have given Arsenal a good lead to take to the second leg, beating Napoli 2-0 at the Emirates this evening.
Unai Emery welcomed back Laurent Koscielny and Lucas Torreira to his starting line-up, and also recalled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the attack.
The Gunners started brightly, forcing a couple of early corners. Ramsey saw a shot blocked after a pull back from Kolasinac, then Maitland-Niles’ follow up shot was blocked too. Koscielny had defend a low cross smartly but in the 15th minute we were ahead.
Arsenal worked it from inside their own half, Ozil to Ramsey and back to Ozil, to Lacazette, he found Maitland-Niles in the box who laid it off to the Welshman who finished superbly with his right foot. 1-0.
Torreira was making things happen in midfield, making tackles, and the Urugauyan won the ball twice in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal. The second time he took it on, turned inside, took a shot which deflected off Koulibaly and wrong-footed the keeper as it went in and doubled the lead. 2-0.
Ozil was causing the Italians problems with his movement, Lacazette mis-kicked when set up by Aubameyang on the edge of the box, and Ramsey tested the keeper after an Ozil free kick fell for him at the back post. An Aubameyang shot from distance saw the keeper fumble it but grab the ball at the second attempt, and the striker had another sight of goal when Maitland-Niles played him in but his attempted chip didn’t fool Merets.
At the other end Rui shot over the bar after a careless pass from Ramsey, and just before half-time there was a real opportunity for Insigne to pull one back but he shot over the bar from the penalty spot. Even then more good Arsenal play saw a half-chance for Ramsey just before the referee blew for the end of the first 45 minutes.
The second period began with the Italians looking much more energised and dangerous, with Koscielny and Torreira making crucial interventions to deny them at key moments. Insigne had the ball in the net but he was rightly given offside, but there were warning signs for Emery’s men.
Cech had to tip a Koulibaly header over the bar, but at the other end Arsenal were still dangerous. A good short corner move ended with Ramsey smashing a shot at goal which the keeper did well to save and from the resulting corner Monreal headed not far over.
The visitors continued to try and find a way to exploit a defence which hasn’t always been secure this season. Monreal and Koscielny had to make clearances, before Carlo Ancelotti brought on Polish striker Milik for Mertens, and Emery made his first changes a minute later with Iwobi and Mkhitaryan replacing Ozil and Lacazette.
Good work down the left again saw Kolasinac cross, the keeper got hands to it, it fell for Maitland-Niles whose shot bounced up towards goal and Meret made an excellent stop to prevent the Gunners going further ahead. It might have proved a very costly miss had Napoli not made a mess of another glorious chance to score. Insigne got down their right hand side, crossed to the far post, Zielinski was there with just a tap in but on the stretch he put it over the bar.
Ramsey caused more problems around the box but Kolasinac couldn’t find the right cross, before we made our final change when Eleny replaced Torreira on 77′. We should have scored again when Mkhitaryan created a glorious chance for Ramsey but somehow the Welshman blasted the ball over the bar from 10 yards out.
Napoli sought a way back into the game, looking for a vital away goal, and Cech had to stand up well to a cross at his near post. Aubameyang had a chance when Mkhitaryan drove towards goal but he blasted his shot into the side netting, and Ounas shot wide when he should have done better.
We went into four minutes of added time, but neither side added to the scoreline. We could have scored more, but so could they, and all in all it’s a good result ahead of the trip to Italy next week.