Europa League: Lacazette free-kick seals semi-finals spot for Arsenal - Dove Bulletin - Online News Bulletin

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Thursday, 18 April 2019

Europa League: Lacazette free-kick seals semi-finals spot for Arsenal

Alexandre Lacazette's first-half free-kick eased Arsenal into the Europa League semi-finals as they completed a 3-0 aggregate victory over Napoli.

Lacazette's 25-yard effort flew into the top corner after the hosts enjoyed the better of the early chances.

Arkadiusz Milik had a goal ruled out for offside while Petr Cech saved well from Jose Callejon.

Arsenal are scheduled to host Valencia in the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday 2 May (20:00 BST).

In the end, it was a comfortable night's work for the Gunners as Unai Emery marked his 50th game as their manager.

Arsenal, who arrived at the Stadio San Paolo with a 2-0 lead from the first leg in London, could have doubled their margin of victory on the night but home goalkeeper Alex Meret superbly saved from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the break.

The only negative aspect of the evening for Arsenal was Aaron Ramsey hobbling off with a suspected hamstring injury.

The Wales midfielder was withdrawn in the first half and will be a doubt for the club's remaining fixtures before his summer move to Juventus.

Emery's tactical masterclass

When it comes to the Europa League knockout stages, Emery has an unequalled managerial record - 26 wins.

And his know-how from winning the tournament in three consecutive years (2013-14 to 2015-16) while manager of La Liga side Sevilla came to the fore in this second leg.

While the 2-0 advantage from the first leg at Emirates Stadium gave Arsenal room for manoeuvre, there were few thoughts of simply playing to contain their opponents.

Deploying a three-man defence allowed them to initially take the game to their hosts as Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac pressed forward and Lucas Torreira and Ramsey controlled proceedings in midfield.

Napoli did respond but Lacazette's goal signalled the end of the home pressure and settled any lingering Arsenal nerves.

It left Carlo Ancelotti's side needing to score four times and maintained the Gunners' record of scoring early on their travels - 16 of their past 18 away goals have been in the first half.

With the cushion of their away goal, Arsenal deployed men behind the ball in the second period, allowing Napoli possession but few chances - with Lorenzo Insigne's tame effort the hosts' only shot on target.

Napoli's missing swagger

While Emery was winning the first of his three Europa League crowns, Carlo Ancelotti was guiding Real Madrid to Champions League success.

But after this defeat, the Italian will have to put thoughts of becoming only the seventh manager to win both of European football's major club competitions to the back of his mind.

Only Udo Lattek, Bob Paisley, Giovanni Trapattoni, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez had accomplished that feat previously and while Ancelotti's side embraced his instructions to play with "intensity and heart", there was an absence of quality from their performance.

At times, they barely resembled the side with the swagger of Serie A's third-highest scorers, behind Juventus and Atalanta.

Callejon missed a golden opportunity to score the game's opening goal - firing straight at Cech after a surging forward run from Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Poland forward Milik was also wasteful in front of goal, failing to register an effort on target despite being presented with two free headers in front of the Arsenal goal that should have brought more.

And it ensured their Europa League campaign ended in an underwhelming fashion.
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