Lacazette stunner sends Gunners into Europa League semi-finals

AlexandreLacazette scored a stunning first-half free-kick

AlexandreLacazette scored a stunning first-half free-kick

Arsenal defied their questionable away record to cruise into the Europa League semi-finals with a comfortable 1-0 win over a toothless Napoli thanks to Lacazette stunner.

AlexandreLacazette scored a stunning first-half free-kick

AlexandreLacazette scored a stunning first-half free-kick

Arriving in Naples with a 2-0 first-leg lead, the Gunners knew an away goal would leave Napoli needing to score four times to progress: Alexandre Lacazette obliged with a stunning first-half free-kick to book the Gunners’ spot in the last four.

Unai Emery made just one change to the side that had triumphed at the Emirates a week ago, with Granit Xhaka coming in for Mesut Ozil, pushing Aaron Ramsey into a more advanced role.

The Welshman was central to an encouraging opening spell for the visitors, leading the press high up the field between forward pair Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, as the expected fast start from Napoli never materialised.

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It took twenty minutes, in fact, before the raucous San Paolo crowd were given something to cheer on the field, but the celebrations were short lived as the linesman’s flag correctly ruled out Arkadiusz Milik’s ​dinked finish.

The Pole then missed an excellent chance, powering wide with a diving header after timing his run to perfection, and when Arsenal lost Ramsey to a hamstring injury that Gunners fans will worry could mark the end to his time at the club, you felt the tide was just starting to turn.

Step forward Lacazette, to whip a superb free-kick home from all of 25 yards, albeit with the help of some questionable positioning from Alex Meret in the home goal, to give the Gunners the lead and the away goal they so cherished.

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Carlo Ancelotti sent on Dries Mertens at the break in search of greater attacking threat, but it was Arsenal who should have had a second straight after the interval, only for Meret to make a stunning close range save to deny Aubameyang.

Lorenzzo Insigne cushioned straight into the arms of Petr Cech when attempting a lob from a tight angle, and was immediately replaced by Amin Younes, taking out his frustrations on a few unsuspecting water bottles around the home dugout.

The Gunners had watched north London rivals Tottenham reach a European semi-final of their own in the most dramatic of fashion on Wednesday night, and though they would have hoped to get the job done in rather more comfortable fashion, they could not have predicted it to be as serene as this.

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Emery even had the luxury of withdrawing Xhaka, one booking away from a semi-final suspension, with half an hour to play, but his departure did little to aid the hosts, who continued to toil, and saw Milik miss a sitter from six yards, but never looked like mounting anything that even vaguely resembled a comeback.

Valencia’s victory over Villarreal means they now stand between the Gunners and a place in the final, as Emery looks to crown his first season in charge with a fourth Europa League title. They will surely be made harder to work for that honour.

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