Europa: Arsenal and Chelsea draw first blood in wins over Napoli and Prague

Arsenal scored two early goals to beat Napoli 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final at the Emirates last night.

Aaron Ramsey finished off a slick passing move in the 14th minute before Kalidou Koulibaly scored an own goal when he deflected Lucas Torreira’s shot past goalkeeper Alex Meret.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey put the finishing touches on a slick team move to put Arsenal ahead after just 15 minutes

Arsenal completed their 11th home victory in 12 outings against Napoli to put themselves firmly on course for the Europa League semi finals courtesy of goals from Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira.

When the Emirates opened its doors for the first time in 2006, this is exactly what Arsene Wenger had in mind. A stadium the envy of Europe – but a place rival clubs detested coming to knowing they’d get beaten.

Unai Emery called on his players to embrace the pressure of trying to reclaim Arsenal’s place back at European top table. Returning to the Champions League remains the be-all-and-end-all for Emery’s side this season – Thursday night representing a good opportunity to take a significant step towards that goal.Torreira ran to the Arsenal bench to retrieve a T shirt that paid tribute to a close friend from home in Uruguay who died

Given the Gunners’ horrendous away form – the club have won just twice on the road since December – the onus was on the home side to not only win, but convincing

Meanwhile, Marcos Alonso’s late header handed Chelsea a narrow 1-0 victory away to Slavia Prague.

Marcos Alonso headed in with only four minutes remaining to seal victory and give Chelsea the advantage in this tie

Elsewhere, Benfica beat Frankfurt 4-2, while visiting Valencia beat Villareal 3-1 in an all-Spanish affair.

UEL Quarters: Arsenal to face Napoli as Chelsea tie against Slavia Prague

Chelsea and Arsenal have both avoided each other in the Europa League quarter-final draw with the Gunners being handed a tough last eight clash with Napoli.

Maurizio Sarri’s side, who are still unbeaten in this season’s competition, were awarded a favourable tie against Slavia Prague at the ceremony in Nyon.

There will be an all Spanish quarter-final draw against Villarreal and Valencia while Benfica and Frankfurt will go head to head for a place in the semi-finals of the competition.

Arsenal will face Napoli in the Europa League quarter-finals while Chelsea play Slavia Prague

The first legs will be played on April 11, with the second legs on April 18.

Chelsea will play the first leg at home first because both they and Arsenal cannot play in London on the same evening.

Should Unai Emery’s men make it through to the semi-finals of the competition, they will come up against the winner of Valencia and Villarreal while also being afforded a home game in the first leg of the last-four encounter.

Watatoboa? Man United handed Barcelona as Man City face Tottenham in UCL Quarters

The winner of Chelsea and Slavia Prague’s match will face either Frankfurt or Benfica over two legs for a place in the final.

Arsenal have won their only previous home game against Napoli in European competition, where they beat the Serie A side 2-0 in the 2013-14 Champions League campaign, with Mesut Ozil directly involved in both goals.

The German playmaker scored one and assisted the other in that match at the Emirates.

Meanwhile, the Blues, who haven’t lost in this season’s Europa League campaign, are unbeaten in their previous six games against Czech opponents in European competition, having won three and drawn three, while also managing to keep a clean sheet in four of the last five.

EUROPA LEAGUE DRAW

QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

Napoli vs Arsenal

Villarreal vs Valencia

Benfica vs Frankfurt

Slavia Prague vs Chelsea

The first legs will be played on April 11 with the second legs being played on April 18.

SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Napoli/Arsenal vs Villarreal/Valencia

Benfica/Frankfurt vs Slavia Prague/Chelsea

-Dailymail

OUTRAGEOUS: Napoli fan to sue ref for not sending off Juventus player

Photo: zimbio.com

Despite the much hyped Manchester derby pitting the two Manchester sides, the Turin derby still remains one of the world’s most popular derbies. The derby which features Serie A clubs Torino and Juventus, probably slipped off the minds of many football fans this weekend except Serie A fans.

The passion exuded by both fans and players remains one of the derby’s key ingredients and as expected, the same was witnessed last Sunday with league leaders Juventus running riot on Torino in a commanding 4-1 win, which saw them extend their lead at the league summit with 70 points three ahead of second placed Napoli.

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VIDEO: Congolese Referee Leaves Pitch On A Stretcher After Being Badly Beaten By Fans

One of the key talking points from the match was the match official whom according to many, showed too much lenience in an incident where they felt the referee should have sent off Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci after the defender squared up to the referee early in the second half.

The referee might have played down the said incidence but not one Luigi Giordano, an ardent Napoli fan, who confirmed he would be suing referee Nicola Rizzoli for not sending off Bonucci.

“I have done my duty as a lawyer and Napoli fan,” Luigi Giordano wrote on his official Facebook page. “I now place my trust in the Turin magistrates.”

Outrageous don’t you think?. Read more here

Higuain hits 20 from 20 as Napoli stretch lead

Napoli went four points clear at the top of Serie A on Saturday as Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in a 3-1 win over Sassuolo, taking his tally to 20 goals in as many top flight games this season.

Until Saturday’s clash in Naples, impressive Sassuolo had gone unbeaten against five of this season’s title challengers having claimed wins over Napoli, Juventus and Inter and drawn with Roma and Fiorentina.

But Higuain, who is well on his way to this season’s Capocannoniere (top scorer) award, did brilliantly to give Napoli a 42nd minute lead after Jose Callejon’s 19th minute header cancelled out Diego Falcinelli’s opener from the spot.

Higuain came close twice early in the second half and, just as Napoli were hanging on to a 2-1 lead, the Argentine beat Andrea Consigli with a fierce shot from inside the area in the third minute of added-on time to wrap up the win and maintain his personal quest.

Napoli’s 13th win of the campaign leaves them top on 4423 points with a four-point cushion on Inter, who scraped a 1-1 draw away to Atalanta to drop points for the second consecutive match after last week’s defeat to Sassuolo.

It means champions Juventus, in third at five points off the pace, can move back up to second and two points clear of Inter with a win away to Udinese on Sunday.

Napoli had the worst possible start at a packed San Paolo, Nicola Sansone earning an early penalty after being fouled by Raul Albiol and Diego Falcinelli stepping up to wrong-foot Pepe Reina in the Napoli goal after just three minutes.

If memories of Napoli’s defeat to Sassuolo on the opening season floated back, they were soon put to rest as Napoli replied in positive fashion.

When Insigne ran half the length of the pitch to set up Higuain the Argentine’s drive sailed off target while under pressure.

The threat of pacey front man Insigne finally came good on 19 minutes when he got deep, waited for Callejon’s call and watched as the Spaniard flicked a near post header past Andrea Consigli to claim his first league goal of the season.

Napoli immediately took the momentum, and although Reina had to look sharp to palm Matteo Politano’s angled drive to safety the hosts saw Insigne hit the upright with a curler after he had nutmegged a defender.

The stadium erupted three minutes before half-time when Higuain put his predator’s instincts on display to give the hosts a 2-1 lead, throwing Lorenzo Ariaudo to the ground and off his scent before rushing in to pounce on Hamsik’s pinpoint delivery.

Napoli enjoyed a bright start to the second half and twice Higuain came close inside the opening six minutes, his second effort notably flashing inches wide of Consigli’s upright.

Insigne came close again when he curled an effort just over, minutes before being replaced by Dries Mertens.

Napoli, however, remained under threat and Reina did well not to panic when he desperately pushed away a cross before seeing a diving header from Lorenzo Pellegrini go wide.

Reina wasn’t helping to settle nerves either, the Spaniard scuffing a clearance that he chased down and swept from the feet of Falcinelli 35 metres out from his goal.

But Sassuolo took their eye off the ball, literally, in the final minute of added-on time.

Callejon did well chasing to stop the ball going out of play and found Higuain unmarked inside the area to beat Consigli down low in what was the final kick of the game.

Photo Credits : AFP

VIDEO: 5 Teams That Have Overturned A 2-Goal Deficit In UEFA Champions League History

Bayern Munich players congratulate Jerome Boateng after he scored in their 6-1 win over Porto on Tuesday night. | image source: telegraph.co.uk

Bayern Munich in the history of the UEFA Champions League became only the sixth team to overcome a two-goal deficit in the knockout after they eliminated FC Porto from this season’s competition on Tuesday night.

The Bavarians won 6-1 at home after having lost 3-1 in the away leg last week.

Bayern Munich had never previously achieved such a feat and their success last night sees them follow in the footsteps of five other teams which are listed below.

1. Barcelona in 1999/2000

The Catalans had lost 3-1 away to Chelsea in the quarterfinals of that season’s competition but registered an emphatic 5-1 win in the return leg to see off the Blues. However, the comeback did not count for anything as they were not able to repeat the same heroics in the semifinals. They lost 4-1 away to Valencia in the first leg and a 2-1 win at home in the return was not enough to see them through.

https://youtu.be/aSBN26iBU8c

 VIDEO: Barcelona beat Chelsea 5-1 during the 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League.

In 2013, Barcelona became the first team to overcome a two-goal deficit in a UEFA Champions League knockout stages tie twice when they saw off AC Milan 4-2 on aggregate in the last 16 of the 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League season. They had lost 2-0 away to the Italians before winning 4-0 at home. The result however did not count for much as they eliminated at the semifinal stage by Bayern Munich with a 7-0 aggregate score.

 VIDEO: Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0, 2012-13 UEFA Champions League

2. Deportivo La Coruna in 2004

Before Barcelona happened in 2013, AC Milan is also famous (or is it infamous) for throwing away a three-goal advantage against Deportivo La Coruna in the quarterfinals of the 2003-04 UEFA Champions League. Rossoneri had won 4-1 at home before falling 4-0 in Spain.

VIDEO: Deportivo La Coruna take AC Milan to the cleaners.

3. Monaco in 2004

Looks like season 2003-04 of the UEFA Champions League was scripted for stunning comebacks. In this season also, Monaco eliminated Real Madrid in the quarterfinals after having lost 4-2 away before winning 3-1 at home to progress to the semifinals on the away goals rule.

VIDEO: Memories are made of this! Patrice Evra, Ludovic Giuly, Jaroslav Plasil, Nando Morientes and Jerome Rothen blow the roof Stade Louis II against Real Madrid.

4. Chlesea in 2012 and 2014

Like Barcelona, Chelsea have been able to  overcome a two-goal deficit twice in the history of their UEFA Champions League campaigns and so far are the only team to achieve such a feat and go on to win the competition.

The Blues did so against Napoli duirng their successful 2011-12 season.  They beat the Italians 4-1 at home after losing 3-1 to them away in a last 16 tie.

In 2014, they were at it again in the quarterfinal stage, defeating PSG 2-0 at home after having lost 3-1 at home.

VIDEO: Chelsea stun Napoli.

 VIDEO: Demba Ba haunts team he supported as a boy.

5. Manchester United in 2014

Perhaps one of the few best memories any Manchester United fan would have of the ill-fated David Moyes reign. The Red Devils lost 2-0 away to Olympiakos in a last 16 tie before turning the tables in the second leg with a 3-0 courtesy of a Robin van Persie hat-trick.

VIDEO: Manchester United eliminate Olympiakos but Bayern Munich lay in wait.

VIDEO: Did Diamond Okusimba Mislead Larry Asego On How To Place A Football Bet?

Larry Asego (seated, L) talking with Diamond Okusimba (standing, R).

Betting is a risky game and Larry Asego, one of the presenters at Radio Africa Group, learnt his lesson the hard way.

He placed bets on several football games last week and lost on all. However he now claims to have been misled into the wager by Radio Jambo’s Diamond Okusimba.

Larry claims he sought Okusimba’s advice on which teams he should put his money on for the UEFA Europa League games that were being played on Thursday last week.

He says he followed Okusimba’s tips to the letter. However not a single team, from those he bet on, won on the night and he ended up losing his money.

From the video below, Larry was clearly not a happy man, and he told Okusimba as much.

Lazio rout Empoli, leapfrog Roma into second

Miroslav Klose and Felipe Anderson starred as Lazio completed their third 4-0 rout of the season, over Empoli on Sunday, to leapfrog city rivals Roma into second place in Serie A.

Roma travelled to Torino hoping to close the gap on leaders Juventus to 11 points after the defending champions slipped up on their way to a shock 1-0 defeat at Parma on Saturday.

However a tight match finished 1-1.

After taking a 57th minute lead thanks to Alessandro Florenzi’s spot-kick, Roma were pegged back by Maxi Lopez’s leveller only minutes later and spurned a host of late chances before settling for a share of the points.

The setback means Roma dropped one place to third to sit 13 points behind Juventus and one behind Lazio after Stefano Pioli’s men turned on the style at the Stadio Olimpico to claim their eighth consecutive league win.

“I’m satisfied with our performance, we had 24 shots on goal but we have to be more precise,” Roma coach Rudi Garcia told Sky Sport.

With Lazio in fine fettle, Roma may have to settle for third place which is synonymous with a place in the Champions League qualifying stages, but Garcia added: “It doesn’t matter that Lazio are second, we’ll see how things lie at the end of the season.”

Elsewhere, Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik were on target, while Gonzalo Higuain saw a superbly-hit strike wrongly chalked off as Napoli ended a five-game winless run with a 3-0 rout of Fiorentina.

Napoli are now up to fourth place, seven points behind Roma, although Rafael Benitez’s men will drop back a place to fifth if Sampdoria, two points adrift, account for AC Milan in Sunday’s late fixture.

Palermo remained in mid-table despite a 3-1 away win at Udinese where veteran striker Antonio Di Natale hit a late consolation after goals from Achraf Lazaar, Luca Rigoni and Ivaylo Chochev had given the visitors a 3-0 lead by 66 minutes.

Lazio, fresh from ousting Napoli in the Cup semi-finals to book a final date with Juventus, were chasing their eighth win on the trot as they look to beat Roma to the league’s second automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League and were quickly off the mark.

But coach Stefano Pioli admitted it could be a tight end to the campaign.

“Garcia is right when he says the standings are still in flux,” Pioli told Sky Sport.

“We have to be satisfied with where we are now and the work we’re put in to get here, but we can’t forget about our rivals.”

The hosts made the most of their first opportunity, with captain Stefano Mauri nodding Pedro Luis Cavanda’s cross past Luigi Sepe after only four minutes.

Klose doubled Lazio’s lead on the half in almost identical fashion, the German veteran left unmarked to head Cavanda’s cross from the right past Sepe on 31 minutes.

Pioli was forced to replace Stefan de Vrij after he was forced off injured although losing the Dutch defensive rock had little impact. Empoli had little to offer and Lazio were unstoppable up front.

Antonio Candreva virtually wrapped up the points before half-time when his swerving shot left Sepe clutching at thin air and although Mauri’s volley from Klose’s chipped pass beat Sepe, his effort was ruled offside.

Anderson put the icing on the cake when he tapped home from close range after an alert Klose stole possession in midfield to break through on the left and set up the Brazilian for his 10th goal in 24 games.

Lazio were forced to play the last half hour with 10 men after Diego Novaretti, who had replaced De Vrij, saw red for a second bookable offence on 58 minutes but Empoli failed to capitalise.

Photo Credits : AFP

Gabbiadini gives Napoli advantage in Cup semi-final

Manolo Gabbiadini’s second-half equaliser gave Cup holders Napoli a 1-1 draw with Lazio and a slight advantage ahead of their Italian Cup semi-final second leg back in Naples in April.

Gabbiadini’s 58th minute goal brought Rafael Benitez’ side back on level terms after German veteran Miroslav Klose had given the hosts the lead 12 minutes before half-time in an entertaining clash between the winners of the last three editions of the competition.

Klose had gone close to breaking the deadlock early in the encounter but his shot had come back off the post.

However, the 36-year-old World Cup winning marksman put the ball in the net for the 2013 Cup winners after being set up by Brazilian star Felipe Anderson.

Napoli, winners of the trophy in 2012 as well as last season, stuck doggedly to their task and the lively Gonzalo Higuain set up Gabbiadini who made no mistake.

Thursday sees the other semi-final first leg clash between defending Serie A champions Juventus and Fiorentina — the two sides beaten by Napoli in their final successes, Juve in 2012 and Fiorentina last term.

Photo Credits : AFP

I was always confident Napoli would do it – Benitez

Photo source: zeenews.india.com

Napoli boss Rafael Benitez said he was confident his side would win their penalty shootout on Thursday after the game finished 2-2 in extra time.

Dries Mertens missed an early spot-kick for Napoli and they fell behind just before the hour-mark against Udinese in their Coppa Italia last-16 clash.

Jorginho levelled from the penalty spot before Udinese had Silvan Widmer sent off for a second yellow card.

Udinese still forced extra time though, and even after Marek Hamsik gave Napoli a 99th-minute lead, they still responded – this time through Panagiotis Kone.

That took the clash to penalties but defending champions Napoli held their nerve to set up a quarter-final with Inter.

“When we went 2-1 it up it seemed over,” Benitez told RAI Sport.

“But Udinese scored again and we need to defend better in these situations.

“I had faith we could do it, as the team was in control.

“We were missing the final ball and Udinese were only occasionally dangerous.”

Benitez reserved special praise for Slovakian Hamsik and hopes he can kick on from the performance.

“He had some good performances recently and this goal will really boost his confidence,” Benitez added.

“We know he can make the difference and he is hugely talented, so I hope the goal increases his self-belief.”

-fourfourtwo.com

Spot-on Napoli beat Juventus to Super Cup

Italian Cup holders Napoli beat Juventus 6-5 on penalties to claim their second Super Cup on Monday after a dramatic final played in Doha.

The match, moved to December to accomodate Napoli’s Champions League play-off commitments last August, was pushed into extra time after Gonzalo Higuain hit a 68th-minute leveller to cancel out Carlos Tevez’s early opener for the Serie A champions.

The Argentinian duo went on to complete a brace apiece in extra time, forcing the match to be decided by a dramatic series of spot-kicks.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon got the Serie A champions off to a great start when he palmed Jorginho’s shot on to the upright, only for Tevez to hit the post despite sending Rafael the wrong way.

At 4-4, the match went to sudden death, and after Walter Gargano and Leonardo Bonucci scored their attempts, Juve scented victory when Buffon beat away Dries Mertens’ effort.

However Giorgio Chiellini then sent his weak penalty straight to Rafael, and both Jose Callejon and Roberto Pereyra then missed too.

Kalidou Koulibaly put Napoli within sight of their first Super Cup since 1990 – when Diego Maradona’s Napoli thrashed Juventus 5-1 – when he smacked his penalty in off the inside of the post.

And the Cup finally went to Rafael Benitez’s men when Rafael pulled off a great save to deny Simone Padoin.