It’s never easy when Napoli go to England and their wait for a win there extended to nine games on Thursday night as they fell to a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.
And it was always likely to end this way. The pair had met twice prior to this in European competition – during the group stages of the 2013/14 Champions League – and on both of those occasions the hosts ran out winners with a 2-0 scoreline.
Arsenal started the brighter of the two and looked to get at the Partenopei from the off. A soon-to-be familiar foe in Aaron Ramsey was the first to threaten but his effort was closed down quickly by Kalidou Koulibaly. The ball did then break for Maitland-Niles though but again the Senegalese wall got in the way.
It didn’t take much longer for the first goal to come through Ramsey. The Gunners built the move nicely and it was Maitland-Niles who provided for the Welshman this time, allowing him to convert into the corner.
Koulibaly’s closing down then presented an issue as Arsenal got a second. With possession in midfield, the hosts moved the ball nicely before it arrived with ex-Sampdoria midfielder Lucas Torreira just on the edge of the box. The Uruguayan shot and his effort deflected off of Koulibaly, flying beyond the wrongfooted Alex Meret.
Alexandre Lacazette could have made it three but, thankfully for Napoli, he couldn’t make the desired contact from close range. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then had two of his own chances but the end result was the same as his strike partner.
Finally, Napoli threatened before the break through Lorenzo Insigne. It was a long ball that caught the hosts out, with Jose Callejon getting in on the right before squaring to Insigne who sent his strike over.
Insigne did find the net shortly after the restart but he was thwarted by the offside flag. Intercepting an Allan shot and rounding Petr Cech.
Cech was then at his best to deny Koulibaly from making amends at the other end. The defender towered over Ramsey to meet a cross but his header was well stopped by the Czech.
Ramsey had another chance for Arsenal and Meret was forced into action on a couple of occasions as the Gunners reminded Carlo Ancelotti’s side that despite the Italians’ improvement in the second half, they could still cause problems of their own.
Piotr Zielinski missed a glorious opportunity to pull one back and claim a potentially crucial away goal with ten minutes to play. A dangerous ball, again from Callejon, picked him out but he sent his effort over.
More chances fell Ramsey and Aubameyang’s way, but two would be where the scoring stopped and the Londoners will take a comfortable lead to the Stadio San Paolo.