Player Ratings: Napoli 2-0 Arsenal

Stadio San Paolo

Arsenal fell to Napoli by a matching scoreline to their prior victory over the Partenopei at the Emirates, but secured qualification to the knockout stages nonetheless.

The Gunners held out against a side that needed a 3-0 victory or help from elsewhere to qualify for the round of 16 until late on to concede twice, but came away with the necessary result to progress.

Former transfer target Gonzalo Higuain produced a clean finish to at last claim the opener after 73 minutes of scoreless football and Jose Callejon struck in stoppages.

Referee Viktor Kassai, who oversaw Arsenal’s distastrous defeat to Milan in their last trip to Italy, saw fit to whistle for full time just moments after the restart on the hosts’ second strike to allow Arsene Wenger’s men a muted celebration in defeat.

Finishing second in Group F will see the Gunners face either Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich or Atletico Madrid to begin the knockout phases of the competition.

Napoli

Rafael Cabral - 6/10

Called into action just once to beat away a fierce effort from Olivier Giroud at the near post.

Christian Maggio – 6/10

Active as usual on the right flank and participated in an intriguing battle with Kieran Gibbs. Had several shooting opportunities but was wasteful and unable to take advantage.

Federico Fernandez – 6.5/10

Was solid, if unspectacular. Played a mistake-free evening and did what was necessary at the back.

Raul Albiol – 7/10

Made several crucial interventions on Giroud and never let the Frenchman to get too far away from him. Nearly caught out on the counter but played the offside trap well to nullify any opportunities.

Pablo Armero – 6.5/10

Was a menace with his pace in attack but let himself down too often at the crucial moment. Fluffed a golden opportunity in front of goal and saw himself out of position constantly due to his preference for driving forward over defending.

Blerim Dzemaili – 6.5/10

Provided energy in the centre of the park but didn’t win the ball back at the rate Rafa Benitez would’ve desired. Failed to trouble the goalkeeper with one of his trademark long range efforts.

Valon Behrami – 5.5/10

Sluggish in the first half and slowed down the Napoli counter. Committed five fouls and was lucky to escape with out a booking.

Dries Mertens – 6.5/10

Wasn’t secure in possession and often lost out to Kieran Gibbs. However, covered a considerable amount of ground in tracking back to help out defensively.

Goran Pandev - 6/10

Wasn’t able to make use of his creative faculties in slotting in for the injured Marek Hamsik. Lacked the pace to truly trouble Arsenal. Removed on 57 minutes for Lorenzo Insigne.

Jose Callejon – 8.5/10

Scared Jenkison with his searing pace down the left. Moved into a central position for the final half-hour and cause major problems for Arsenal, serving Higuain for Napoli’s first and beating Wojciech Szczesny himself at the death with a delightful chipped effort.

Gonzalo Higuain – 7.5/10

Cut a frustrated figure for much of the day with little service and thrashed over the bar from close range, but recovered to score what would’ve been the most important goal of Napoli’s season to date after a lovely turn on the edge of the area.

Substitutes

Lorenzo Insigne – 8/10

Changed the complexion of the match for Napoli upon his introduction after a dour hour. Menaced defenders with pace and trickery to compromise Arsenal’s defensive discipline. Assisted Callejon’s late strike with a brilliant dinked ball.

Arsenal

Wojciech Szczesny – 5.5/10

Didin’t look secure in the opening 45 minutes and nearly gifted Napoli an opener with a poor clearance that cam back off of Higuain’s head. Could do little against two sterling finishes from the hosts.

Carl Jenkinson – 5.5/10

Was up against it with the pace of Armero and Callejon constantly keeping him on the back foot. Forced to commit an array of fouls that could’ve proven costly for his side.

Per Mertesacker – 6.5/10

Excelled with his positioning over the 90 minutes until being left in Callejon’s wake on the second goal late on.

Laurent Koscielny – 7/10

Never lost out in the air and only saw himself beaten on Higuain’s goal, though was victimised by a great finish.

Kieran Gibbs - 7/10

Dealt well with the speedy Mertens and got forward when the opportunity presented itself.

Mathieu Flamini – 7/10

Handled Pandev with expertise, whilst his surging runs forward posed a threat to the Napoli cause. Challenged when the pacy Callejon moved into the centre upon Insigne’s introduction.

Mikel Arteta - 5/10

Frustrated Napoli with his presence in midfield, but ultimately paid the price for ill discipline in being sent off for a second bookable offence with a quarter-hour to go.

Tomas Rosicky – 6.5/10

Arsenal’s most dangerous played going forward. Pulled Behrami out of position with his movement and looked the most likely Gunner to split apart the Napoli defence.

Mesut Ozil – 6/10

Held the ball up in the offensive third and allowed Arsenal to have long spells of possession in the first half. However, his end product let him down in a performance not comprehensively up to his lofty standards.

Santi Cazorla – 6/10

Not the greatest of days for the Spaniard. Combined well with Ozil and Arteta on the edge of the area on a few occasions, but couldn’t find the killer ball. Replaced by Aaron Ramsey on 68 minutes.

Olivier Giroud – 5.5/10

Never could get involved enough to leave his mark on proceedings. Broke away from Albiol once to force a decent save from Cabral but didn’t threaten otherwise.

Substitutes

Nacho Monreal – 6/10

Came on for the last 15 minutes to aid in the defensive effort, but wasn’t a major factor.

Aaron Ramsey – 5.5/10

Saw 20 minutes of action down the stretch and was booked for dissent in his most notable involvement.

image: © SheaAk

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