Video: Aaron Ramsey inspires as Arsenal beat Napoli in Europa League
Welshman shows what the Gunners will miss when he leaves for Juventus
Uefa Europa League quarter-final first leg Arsenal 2 Napoli 0
Aaron Ramsey gave Italian fans a taste of what they can expect from him in Serie A next season while reminding Arsenal how they will miss him when he moves to Juventus.
The Welshman was the standout performer for the Gunners in their impressive 2-0 win against Napoli in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final.
Ramsey scored Arsenal’s first, a sumptuous goal involving deft assists from Mesut Ozil and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and he was dominant throughout against a Napoli side that could have conceded several more but for their goalkeeper.
As it was, Alex Meret was beaten by Lucas Torreira’s shot that took a wicked deflection off Kalidou Koulibaly and the Italians are still very much in the tie despite Arsenal’s two-goal advantage.
The Gunners know they will be subjected to a hostile atmosphere in next Thursday’s return leg at the San Paolo Stadium, and with their notoriously flaky defence the quarter-final remains finely balanced.
‘It will be difficult’
“It’s 50/50,” said Arsenal boss Unai Emery, in response to a question about the state of play. “The first leg was very important to take a good result. We deserved to win, but we know it is going to be very difficult there.
“Their performances at home are usually very strong. We will plan to win the match, but we need to have a lot of respect for them.
“It is still 50-50. Our challenge is to be competitive away. Sometimes away we lose the spirit we have at home.”
Italians are confident
Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti, who got to know Arsenal well from his time in charge of Chelsea, is clearly aware of the Gunners’ poor form on the road, in declaring himself “confident” of progressing to the semi-finals.
“The result is difficult to change but we have 90 minutes left,” he said.
Ancelotti had Meret to thank for keeping the tie alive, the Napoli keeper saving twice from Ramsey and denying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang three times.
“His performances in this moment for us [show] that he wants to do something important with us, because I think he feels a lot for Arsenal as a club,” Emery said about Ramsey’s sparkling display.
“When he’s here with our supporters, he gives us all he can, not individually, but in the collective... his focus is very big, he’s thinking of Arsenal only.”
Chelsea leave it late
In the tournament's other matches, Chelsea beat Slavia Prague 1-0 thanks to a goal four minutes from time from Marcos Alonso.
It was an off-colour performance from the Blues, enlivened only when Eden Hazard appeared as a substitute midway through the second half, but Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri declared himself satisfied with the result.
“I think we knew very well that here is very difficult,” he said. “The opponents are very physical, very aggressive and so we knew very well we had to face difficulties during the match. We were able to front up and face them well.”
Wins for Valencia and Benfica
Valencia all but booked their place in the last four with a 3-1 victory at Spanish rivals Villarreal, with goals from Daniel Wass and Goncalo Guedes coming in the last five minutes.
The tie between Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt is more finely balanced despite the Germans losing 4-2 in Portugal. Frankfurt’s two away goals will give them belief that they can turn things around next week.
Europa League results and fixtures
11 April: quarter-final first leg results
- Arsenal 2 Napoli 0
- Benfica 4 Eintracht Frankfurt 2
- Slavia Prague 0 Chelsea 1
- Villarreal 1 Valencia 3
18 April: quarter-final second leg fixtures
All matches kick off at 8pm (UK time) and will be live on BT Sport.
- Chelsea vs. Slavia Prague
- Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Benfica
- Napoli vs. Arsenal
- Valencia vs. Villarreal