LONDON. — Arsenal put one foot in the Europa League football semi-finals with one of their best displays of the season on Thursday night.
An Aaron Ramsey strike and a shot from Lucas Torreira which deflected in off Kalidou Koulibaly gave the Gunners a 2-0 lead by half-time over Napoli. Unai Emery’s side are now massive favourites to go through ahead of the second leg in Naples next Thursday.
Arsenal lost to Atletico Madrid in the last four last season, but they shrugged off Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Everton to bounce back in style. And crucially they did not concede an away goal as Petr Cech kept a clean sheet on what is set to be one of his last games for the club before he retires.
Goalscorer Ramsey said: “To keep a clean sheet and score a couple of goals is a lovely way to start the first leg. We’re delighted with that.
“We suffered a lot. They’re a good team and keep the ball well. We had to dig in.
“I should have scored in the second half again. We can go into the second leg with a little bit of a cushion. But we know it will be a difficult place to go.
“They were unlucky not to go through [in the Champions League]. They are a quality team. They’re a tough team to play against. We have given ourselves a great opportunity.”
Emery added: ”The first 90 minutes here we can impose a big plan. They can control ball with possession. They had one chance in the first half then two chances in second half. We deserved a third goal.
“Away there is going to be different. We need to be focused and clear. No more confident than we need.”
Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, Marcos Alonso’s late header dragged a lacklustre Chelsea to a 1-0 Europa League win at Slavia Prague. The Spain full-back ghosted clear in the box to nod home Willian’s teasing far-post cross, to hand the Blues the slender advantage midway through their quarter-final. – AFP