Skip to content

Arsenal advance in Champions League, but Napoli out despite win

Dec 11, 2013, 4:43 PM EDT

SSC Napoli v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

One good club from Group F, a real heavyweight of a foursome, was bound to be odd team out on Wednesday as Champions League group play finished with a high-wire tension.

As it turned out, it was the victorious side from inside Napoli’s aged Stadio San Paolo that turned into the unlucky bunch.

A 2-0 win for Napoli over Arsenal was a result the English club could live with, although just barely, but it wasn’t enough to push Rafa Benitez’s club from Italy into next year’s knockout rounds.

Gonzalo Higuain’s second half goal was enough for the time being – it was a strike that would have sent both teams through with the other group match temporarily deadlocked. But when Dortmund scored near the end in the South of France, prevailing over Marseille, that was that for the Napoli, having been so desperate to remain in the competition after such a long absence.

Not even Jose Callejon’s late, late goal was enough, producing the final two-goal margin, but still not sufficient for Napoli.

The night had a certain edge, with Arsenal needing something better than a 2-0 loss to do what Arsenal does under Arsene Wenger: progress into the Champions League knockout round. Meanwhile, Napoli needed to win by more 2-0 or hope for something good from the Marseille-Dortmund contest, and where the pileup of a group table would be finally be revealed.

Benitez’s Napoli had lots of bite, and Belgian international Dries Mertens was on top of his game, with lots of creativity and hustle-bustle along the right for the Italian team. Napoli kept the ball in Arsenal’s end but couldn’t quite unlock a defense where center backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were big cops on the beat.

In fact, the most nervy Gunners moment before intermission was their own poor doings. Koscielny rolled a ball to goalkeeper Szczesny, who tried to get clever. Rather than crushing the ball forward, he attempted a little pass out to the wing. It bounced off Higuain, who was nearly able to direct it into goal.

The home team frustration grew as the opportunity for opportunities diminished, and by the 35th minute Mertens and Blerim Dzemaili had yellow cards, mostly a response to the persistent midfield fouling meant to slow Arsenal’s lethal counter.

Napoli pressed on, closer and closer to the breakthrough after the break. Pablo Armero broke through on the left and Callejon on the right, just a few minutes apart, but neither could do well enough with their shooting efforts.

In the 70th minute, Higuain was set free inside the 18, but he shot high, too.

Finallly, in the 73rd, Higuain had a moment of brilliance. The entry pass was good enough, but the Argentine forward’s piece of technical craft, the spin and shot to the far post at such high speed, was something to behold.

Arsenal’s job got harder in the 76th when Mikel Arteta, having already been booked, collected his second foul for a tough midfield foul. The Gunners did concede a second, but it was deep enough into injury time that it really was academic.

Lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud.

On the bench: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Bendtner

Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Armero; Dzemaili, Behrami; Callejón, Pandev, Mertens; Higuain.

On the bench: Colombo, Uvini, Britos, Isigne, Cannovaro, Inler, Zapata

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Weekend Preview: Derbies close weekend kicking off off at Sporting Park

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:42 AM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Montreal Impact Getty Images

    NBCSN games on Friday, Sunday highlight a nine-match weekend in the domestic league.

  2. Leicester City lands coup with Inter legend Esteban Cambiasso

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    esteban_cambiasso Getty Images

    The Nerazzurri icon moves to the East Midlands after 10 years at the San Siro.

  3. Crimes and Misdemeanors: Portland’s Norberto Paparatto receives one-game suspension from MLS

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:04 PM EDT

    norberto_paparatto AP

    An arm to the back of Chad Marshall’s head earns the Timber’s center back a weekend off.

  4. Kei Kamara returning the MLS? Regardless, his time’s done at Middlesbrough

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Kamara head shot

    Columbus, Sporting, Vancouver connected with a possible return.

  5. Lessons from 2010 say U.S. squad as much about opportunity, circumstances as youth

    Aug 28, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    jurgen_klinsmann

    In 2010, a series of young Americans looked prime for breakthroughs. Their experience reminds up: Four years is a long way off.

  6. Premier League Power Rankings: Familiar faces jostle for the top spot – Week 1

    Aug 28, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Nacer Chadli AP

    Our first Power Rankings of the 2014-15 season. What do you think?

  7. U.S. roster for Czech Republic: Quick look at some of the newer names

    Aug 28, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT

    Rubin Rubin

    Rubio Rubin, Joe Gyau, and Emerson Hyndman are among the roster’s most-intriguing prospects for 2018.

  8. VIDEO: PST Extra – Did Manchester United waste $99 million on Angel Di Maria?

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    Jenna, JPW and Prindi break down Di Maria to United, Balotelli to Liverpool and Chelsea’s tough trip to Everton.

  9. Who is Jordan Morris? College player gets US national team call up for friendly

    Aug 28, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

    Source: Pac -12 Source: Pac -12

    A striker from Stanford could become the first collegian in the MLS era to play for the USA. Who is he?

  10. Report: Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid battling to sign Radamel Falcao on loan

    Aug 28, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    Four top teams in the hunt for Falcao. Will they cough up the cash for a loan deal?

  11. Plenty of surprises in US national team roster for Czech Republic friendly

    Aug 28, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Getty Images

    Klinsmann selects Stanford forward, several American youngsters based in Europe for Czech Republic clash.

  12. Analysis: Arsenal, Manchester City handed tough Champions League draw

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-BORUSSIA-DORTMUND-ARSENAL Getty Images

    Can Arsenal and Man City navigate tough UCL groups, again?

  13. Cristiano Ronaldo wins UEFA’s ‘best player in Europe’ award

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Ronaldo named ‘best player in Europe’ for outstanding 2013-14 season.

  14. Full draw: European giants collide as UEFA Champions League groups set

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League - Q1 and Q2 Qualifying Round Draw Getty Images

    The eight groups are set as the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League will kick off next month.

  15. Angel Di Maria unveiled by Manchester United, van Gaal doesn’t expect ‘miracles’

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT

    Bv-8S8vCcAAWAVe

    Louis van Gaal delighted, yet realistic, as Di Maria speaks for the first time as a United player.

  16. VIDEO: Donovan shines, LA Galaxy hammer DC United 4-1

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    landon_donovan Getty Images

    Galaxy win third-straight, go second in the West as Donovan continues to shine during elongated swansong.

  17. Transfer needs – Manchester United, Newcastle, QPR, Southampton, Stoke

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    MK Dons v Manchester United - Capital One Cup Second Round Getty Images

    We continue our look at what each PL team needs to do in the final few days of the window.

  18. Preview: Possible “Groups of Death” galore in UEFA Champions League draw

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Champions League logo

    All the details you need to know, as the UCL group stage draw takes place on Thursday.

Featured video

Breaking down Di Maria, Balotelli deals