Lacazette Brilliance Sets Up Semi-final Meeting With Valencia

Afine Alexandre Lacazette free-kick was enough for Arsenal to claim a 1-0 victory over Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo and book a place in the Europa League semi-finals.

The French striker bent the ball into the bottom corner from range midway through the first half, as the Gunners built on a healthy 2-0 lead from the first leg to progress with ease.

Despite a late Napoli fightback, the Gunners‘ defence remained resolute and they saw out a comprehensive 3-0 aggregate victory.

In need of goals, Napoli started brightly and ought to have taken an early lead after a rapid counter-attack. Kalidou Koulibaly robbed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the edge of the box following an Arsenal corner and assisted Fabian Ruiz in launching the play up field.

The Senegalese received the ball back at the other end of the pitch but his dangerous cross to the unmarked Jose Callejon was tamely side-footed to Petr Cech.

Midway through the first half, the hosts had the ball in the back of the net through Arkadiusz Milik but were left ruing the official’s flag. A smart interchange saw Lorenzo Insigne thread through to his strike partner, who clipped the ball over Cech but saw his celebrations cut short.

Milik squandered a glorious opportunity to halve the first leg deficit when he lost his marker to meet Piotr Zielinski‘s lofted pass but could only guide his header well wide.

Having survived numerous scares, Arsenal put the tie beyond reach through a wonderful Lacazette free-kick. Lining the ball up in a central position, the former Lyon man rifled in a bending effort around the wall and in, having wrongfooted goalkeeper Alex Meret in the process.

Napoli piled forward in the second half as they sought to mount an unlikely comeback but struggled to break down an organised Arsenal defence. Callejoncame close as Faouzi Ghoulam flicked a corner into his path, but he could only fire over in the box.

Meanwhile, Milik was proving wasteful when through, as he blazed wide from range before failing to get a positive connection on a tantalising low Mario Ruicross from just yards out.

Despite pushing forward, the Italian outfit rarely troubled Cech and were ushered out of contention by Arsenal with ease. The Gunnerswill now face Valencia in the Europa League semi-finals, which will mean a return to Mestalla for Unai Emery.

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