Arsenal, Chelsea, Benfica and Valencia close on EL semi-finals Chelsea ban fans for racism
ARSENAL and Chelsea closed in on the Europa League last four on Friday (Thailand time) 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.
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.
Napoli were completely out of sorts, barely able to get the ball out of their own half at times, and 10 minutes later the Gunners doubled their lead.
Former Sampdoria midfielder Lucas Torreira won possession in midfield and charged towards goal before letting off a weak shot that flicked off Koulibaly and flew past a bamboozled Alex Meret in the Napoli goal.
“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,” the Welshman told BT Sport.
“We can go into the second leg with a little bit of a cushion, but we know it will be a difficult place to go ... they are a quality team.”
Chelsea had goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to thank for several fine saves before Alonso nodded home Willian’s pinpoint cross four minutes from time to seal a 1-0 away 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 will almost certainly take on Valencia should they hold on at what will be an intimidating Stadio San Paolo after the La Liga side scored twice in stoppage time to win 3-1 at fellow Spaniards Villarreal.
Chelsea meanwhile will likely play Benfica should they go through after 19-year-old Joao Felix became the youngest ever player to score a Europa League hat-trick and set up the other goal in 4-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Chelsea condemned “abhorrent discriminatory behaviour” after reportedly preventing three supporters from attending their Europa League quarter-final first leg clash at Slavia Prague yesterday (Thailand time).
The Premier League club’s security team identified the fans from a video on Twitter showing them singing a derogatory song about former Chelsea forward Mohamed Salah, now of Liverpool, according to British media reports.
“Chelsea FC finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour abhorrent and where there is clear evidence of Chelsea season ticket holders or members involved in such behaviour, we will take the strongest possible action against them,” Chelsea said in a statement.
“Such individuals are an embarrassment to the vast majority of Chelsea supporters who won’t tolerate them in their club.”
Four Chelsea supporters were previously suspended by the club after Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling was racially abused at Stamford Bridge in December.
Manager Maurizio Sarri backed the club’s strong stance after his team’s 1-0 quarter-final, first-leg win in Prague.
“I don’t want to talk about this because I didn’t see the video,” he said. “Yes, I think it is right [that the club takes action] but you have to ask the club. It was a very strong decision and I think it’s right.”
Liverpool also thanked Chelsea for their quick response to the video, and said in a statement that they are working with Merseyside Police to try to identify the fans.