Paris: Arsenal and Chelsea closed in on the Europa League last four on Thursday after the Gunners saw off highly-fancied Napoli 2-0 at the Emirates, while Marco Alonso’s late header earned Maurizio Sarri’s side a hard-fought win at Slavia Prague.
Unai Emery’s Arsenal hold a healthy advantage going into next week’s second leg thanks to a fine early strike from Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey and an unfortunate Kalidou Koulibaly own goal midway through the first half, and can rue missed chances that would have put the tie completely beyond the Italians’ reach.
“To keep a clean sheet and score a couple of goals is a lovely way to start the first leg. We’re delighted with that,” said Ramsey, who should have added the third when he blazed over with nine minutes left, to BT Sport.
Chelsea meanwhile escaped from Eden Arena after a bitty display that saw Kepa Arrizabalaga have to make some fine saves to keep the Czechs out before Alonso nodded home Willian’s pinpoint cross four minutes from time to seal a 1-0 win.
The Blues remain unbeaten in the Europa League, keeping eight clean sheets in the competition this season, and it was that solidity that saw them through on a tricky evening in Prague.
The Premier League pair remain on a collision course for the final in Baku, with both sides set to avoid each other if they make it through next week’s second legs.
Arsenal were all over Napoli from the kick-off and got their deserved opener with 14 minutes on the clock, Ramsay waltzing in at the end of a beautiful passing move to calmly stroke home Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s neat lay-off....