Napoli scored twice in the second half to earn a 2-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday.
But despite the victory, the Serie A side crashed out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, leaving the Gunners and Borussia Dortmund to represent Group F in the Round of 16.
Predictably, given the stakes, it was Napoli who made the better start on their own patch, and in the seventh minute Pablo Armero tested Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with a searching cross from the left.
Two minutes later, Goran Pandev skipped past Per Mertesacker, but once again Szczesny was on hand to make the save.
It took until midway through the opening period for Arsenal really to settle into proceedings, and in the 24th minute they had their first chance to get on the scoresheet, but Mesut Ozil made a mess of a rebound after Napoli 'keeper Rafael spilled Olivier Giroud’s initial effort.
But as the first half drew to a close, it was Napoli once again in the ascendancy—Maggio misplacing a chip after beating Szczesny to a loose ball, then the Poland international almost putting the ball into his own goal after attempting a back pass with Gonzalo Higuain approaching.
The hosts picked up where they left off after the restart—Armero once again torturing Carl Jenkinson down the left flank and Jose Callejon coming close on the stroke of the hour mark.
In the 70th minute, it was Higuain’s turn to miss a good opportunity from close in, but the Argentina international made amends just three minutes later when, after accepting Callejon’s pass with his right foot, he shifted the ball to his left on the swivel and beat Szczesny inside the far post for the first goal of the match.
By the time Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta was sent off in the 76th minute, Napoli were well in the ascendancy, although until news filtered through that Dortmund had taken the lead in Marseille, they seemed content with a 1-0 advantage.
In the third minute of second-half stoppage time, Callejon bagged his side’s second, but even the 2-0 win proved to be insufficient as Dortmund won 2-1 in France.
Key Player Grades
Jose Callejon: A
He picked up an assist on Higuain’s opener, then got his own name on the scoresheet with a fine goal in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Operating on the left of the attack, he combined with Armero to make Jenkinson’s night miserable and also contributed a pair of tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
Mesut Ozil: B-
|Napoli Player Grades|
Arsenal’s record signing had one of his poorer showings for his new club on Wednesday. Despite playing the full 90 minutes, he touched the ball only 66 times and completed a substandard 79 per cent of his passes. (Statistics courtesy WhoScored.)
|Arsenal Player Grades|
Napoli have two Serie A matches remaining in 2013—on Sunday at home to Inter Milan and on December 21 away to Cagliari. Arsenal, meanwhile, will visit Manchester City on Saturday and host Chelsea in the Premier League on December 23.
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