Post-Match Report

Arsenal 2-2 Napoli - Match report

Laurent Koscielny

SSC Napoli -

Emirates Stadium
Emirates Cup
Emirates Cup
                  Olivier Giroud (72)
                   Laurent Koscielny (86)
Olivier Giroud (72)
Laurent Koscielny (86)
2 2
  SSC Napoli
              Lorenzo Insigne (7)
               Goran Pandev (28)
SSC Napoli
Lorenzo Insigne (7) Goran Pandev (28)

By Chris Harris at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal fought back to snatch a 2-2 draw with Napoli on the opening day of the Emirates Cup.

Lorenzo Insigne fired the Serie A side ahead after seven minutes and Goran Pandev scored a composed second after Lukas Podolski's penalty was stopped by Pepe Reina.

Reina made a string of fine saves before Olivier Giroud hauled Arsenal back into contention with an instinctive overhead kick 18 minutes from time. And Laurent Koscielny nodded in a late equaliser after Reina had parried Per Mertesacker's header.

For a long time it seemed that Napoli's clinical first-half display would be enough to secure them victory. But a gutsy response got Arsenal what they deserved - and that bodes well for the long season ahead.

This was a step up in class from the challenges of the Asia Tour and it won't be easy on Sunday either. But a win over Galatasaray could be enough to keep the Emirates Cup at home.

With Thomas Vermaelen injured and Mikel Arteta on the bench, Mertesacker was handed the captain's armband for Arsenal's return to home soil following pre-season fixtures in Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan.

There was a nod to the successful tour before kick-off when 'The Running Man' - immortalised in this video - was given a warm welcome by the home crowd. But soon the focus turned to Arsene Wenger's first team selection of the weekend with Podolski, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey returning to the starting line-up.

The return of the Emirates Cup after a one-year hiatus was graced with sunshine, a (virtually) full house and something of a party atmosphere as Arsenal's fans got their first football fix since May.

The Italian supporters were out in force too, including a small but noisy pocket of topless fans in the north-east corner of the ground. They had plenty to cheer as a Napoli side peppered with talent - including Marek Hamsik and Valon Behrami - produced a clinical first-half display.

Arsenal started the stronger and could have led within three minutes. Jack Wilshere began an incisive move with a turn inside his marker and he found Podolski who in turn fed Ramsey. The Wales midfielder picked out Gibbs' run and his low cross caused consternation and found the feet of Gnabry. The young forward had time to measure a shot but directed it just wide.

Four minutes later, the hosts were behind. Napoli's poise and guile were obvious but they scored with a move of pure simplicity as a long diagonal pass into the box was contested by Insigne and Carl Jenkinson. The ball looped into the air, Insigne located it first and rattled a shot past Lukasz Fabianski.

"For a long time it seemed that Napoli's clinical first-half display would be enough to secure them victory. But a gutsy response got Arsenal what they deserved - and that bodes well for the long season ahead"

Arsenal responded well. Gnabry curved a low ball towards Giroud but the Frenchman was unable to flick it past Reina. The Napoli keeper, on loan from Liverpool, then inexplicably cleared straight to Gnabry and looked on in anguish as the teenager cutely chipped the ball over his head - and just over the crossbar.

An equaliser seems to be coming and the writing was on the wall for Napoli when Behrami was harshly adjudged to have brought down Gibbs inside the box after 17 minutes. Podolski prepared his hammer of a left boot but opted for a sidefoot rather than laces and saw his low effort pushed away by Reina.

Arguably justice had been done but Arsenal's profligacy was a concern and they were made to pay after 28 minutes when Napoli doubled their lead. This time Pandev's run from right to left caught out the home side and the striker ghosted past Fabianski before keeping his cool to lift a shot beyond the covering defenders and into the net.

Unabashed, Arsenal pushed on in search of a foothold in the game. Podolski went close again with a left-foot drive that Reina tipped beyond the far post and the resulting corner was headed goalwards by Mertesacker, but once again Napoli's familiar face in goal got in the way.

Napoli, having forged their lead, played on the break. And they almost added a third before half-time when Pablo Armero raced down the left and picked out Insigne at the far post. His first-time effort ricocheted off a defender's boot, smacked the striker in the face and - to the relief of Fabianski - rolled just wide.

Arsenal did have the ball in the net before the interval but Ramsey, having slammed Wilshere's chipped pass into the bottom corner, was rightly flagged for offside.

Gnabry, having provided much of Arsenal's spark in the first half, started the second period in the same vein. He initiated a move from the right, exchanging passes with Podolski and Giroud before finding Wilshere. The England man played a one-two with Podolski and advanced into the box to slide a right-footed shot wide of the far post.

By now Gonzalo Higuain was on for Napoli and before long Wenger made changes of his own, replacing Gnabry and Jenkinson with Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna.

But for all their patient probing, Arsenal's best chance for some time was an inadvertent back-header by Behrami which Reina plunged to his left to save.

Napoli broke sporadically and one of their substitutes, Dries Mertens, curled a shot beyond Fabianski and over the bar. But a raft of substitutions, and no doubt pre-season fatigue, had ushered the game into a lull.

It came alive again 18 minutes from time. Giroud tested Reina from a narrow angle and, when the resulting corner was delivered, the France international executed a scissors kick that took a sizeable deflection and found the bottom corner. Assuming the Dubious Goals Panel don't adjudicate on pre-season friendlies, Giroud has his seventh of a productive summer.

Giroud raced through with 12 minutes left only to be flagged offside as his low shot found the side-netting. It set the tone for a final push from Arsenal and they got what they deserved three minutes from time.

Arteta's pinpoint delivery from the right was met with a firm header by Mertesacker. Reina's reflexes brilliantly kept the ball out but Koscielny was on hand to nod in the rebound and earn a share of the spoils.

Emirates Cup table

  P W D L F A Points
Galatasaray 1 1 0 0 1 0 4
Arsenal 1 0 1 0 2 2 3
Napoli 1 0 1 0 2 2 3
Porto 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

Referee: Kevin Friend

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