The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

UEFA Europa League: Arsenal take control of Napoli tie with two-goal win in home leg

Associated Press Thursday, 11 April 2019, 23:19 Last update: about 2 months ago

Arsenal have defeated Napoli 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie.

A fast-paced start from the Gunners was rewarded with a strike from Aaron Ramsey 14 minutes, followed up by an own goal from Kalidou Koulibaly after he got in the way of Lucas Torreira's off-target shot.

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The hosts had chances to scored a third and effectively kill off the tie, but a below-par Napoli also occasionally threatened without scoring the crucial away goal they were after.

Arsenal made five changes on the back of their 1-0 loss to Everton last weekend. Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were among those to return, joining Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil in an attack-minded XI - Unai Emery knowing the importance of picking up a victory on home soil.

Napoli had Premier League-linked defender Kalidou Koulibaly in their ranks, and the Senegalese centre-back showed why he is so highly rated when getting in the way of quickfire shots from Ramsey and Ainsley Maitland-Niles early on.

The Gunners were the side on top in the opening 15 minutes and their pressure told when Ramsey found a way through for the opening goal of the tie.

After linking up with Ozil in a deep position, Ramsey continued his run into the box and converted with a first-time finish across Alex Meret after Maitland-Niles knocked Lacazette's pass into the Welshman's path.

Napoli struggled to respond and they were soon two goals behind as Lucas Torreira turned Fabian Ruiz on the edge of the box and found the back of the net with his left-footed shot, albeit with a huge helping hand thanks to a deflection off Koulibaly's leg.

Sead Kolasinac's tame effort was then kept out by Meret, who was also equal to a a couple of attempts from Aubameyang before the first half ended.

Arsenal could easily have taken a three-goal lead into the interval, with Lacazette fluffing his lines 12 yards from goal and Ramsey having another shot dealt with.

Napoli created just one goalscoring opportunity in the opening 45 minutes and it came shortly before the referee blew his whistle, but Lorenzo Insigne could not keep his shot down when perfectly picked out by Jose Callejonin front of goal.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were a lot more like their usual selves early in the second period, coming close to a goal 54 minutes in through Koulibaly's header, which Petr Cech - at fault for giving away the corner - was able to tip over the bar.

Arsenal had another couple of opportunities to all but kill off the tie, with Ramsey's powerful shot being slapped to safety and Nacho Monreal guiding the subsequent corner over the bar after being left unmarked.

Both teams continued to enjoy threatening moments as the game entered the final 20 minutes. Napoli were indebted to Meret for producing a double save to frustrate Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles, while up the other end Piotr Zielinski diverted Insigne's cross over the crossbar with plenty of the goal to aim for.

 

Marcos Alonso goal gives Chelsea win over Slavia Prague in Europa League

A late goal from Marcos Alonso has earned Chelsea a 1-0 win over Slavia Prague in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

The Blues struggled for large parts of Thursday's game at the Sinobo Stadium, but Alonso's header four minutes from time has provided with the Blues with a potentially-decisive advantage ahead of next week's second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Slavia Prague netted six times over two legs against Sevilla in the previous round, and the Czech outfit went close to their first of this tie after less than two minutes as Simon Deli sent a header wide of the far post from eight yards out.

Maurizio Sarri had made seven changes to his starting lineup and the alterations perhaps contributed to a disjointed opening from the visitors, although Willian was offering a threat down the left side of the pitch.

Slavia continued to plough forward with Kepa Arrizabalaga having to remain alert to keep out an effort from Petr Sevcik, but Chelsea began to improve as the first half progressed.

Willian went closest for the Blues in the 25th minute, with the Brazilian cutting inside onto his right foot on the edge of the area before striking the crossbar from 20 yards out.

Slavia went back on the front foot during the closing stages of the opening period, but Chelsea were doing an effective job in keeping their hosts away from goal.

Chelsea returned for the restart with the intent of offering more of a threat than they did before the break, but Olivier Giroud scuffed a shot wide of the post from eight yards after being found by Willian.

However, Sarri was visibly unhappy with how his side were performing, and the Italian made the decision to introduce Eden Hazard from the substitutes' bench before the hour mark.

The alteration acted as the catalyst for an improved spell from the visitors, with Antonio Rudiger seeing a volley kept out by Ondrej Kolar and Willian dragging a low effort well wide of the far post.

Rudiger also headed off target from a corner, and there was every suggestion that Chelsea were ready to push forward and dominate the closing quarter of the contest.

However, Slavia responded positively to being put under pressure, and Arrizabalaga was required to dive to his right in order to keep Ibrahim Traore's strike from going into the corner.

Jan Boril also saw a volley from inside the area kept out by the goalkeeper, but Chelsea landed the telling blow with just four minutes left through Alonso.

Willian's outswinging cross from the right flank picked out the run of the Spaniard, and the left-back did the rest by powering a header into the bottom corner of Kolar's net.

Slavia pushed forward during the final minutes of the match, but Chelsea comfortably held on to put themselves in a strong position to reach the last four.

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