Arsenal FC took command of UEFA Champions League Group F with a comfortable 2-0 home victory against SSC Napoli.
Both sides came into the game in terrific form, only for the Premier League leaders to stop the Italian team in their tracks with a breathtaking opening spell. Goals from Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud in the first 15 minutes set the Gunners on course for a success that leaves them three points clear at the top of the section, with the visit of Borussia Dortmund to come on matchday three.
It was a ninth win in ten games for Arsène Wenger's men and the perfect present for the manager as he celebrated his 17th anniversary at the helm. Indeed, Arsenal hardly let Napoli near the ball in the early stages. With Mikel Arteta restored to the centre of midfield alongside Mathieu Flamini, the in-form Aaron Ramsey was moved out to the right and it proved an inspired decision by Wenger.
In the eighth minute, Giroud chested the ball into the path of the Welshman and he raced down the wing before cutting back for Özil to side-foot in from the edge of the area. Moments later Pepe Reina dived low to his left to keep out Flamini's drive as Arsenal pinned Napoli back. A second goal was not long in coming. Özil this time turned provider, pulling the ball back again from the right for Giroud to score his sixth goal of the season from close range, punishing a sloppy attempted clearance.
While Arsenal's play was crisp, fast and fluent, Napoli lacked cohesion and, with Gonzalo Higuaín injured, a cutting edge. But for all of the London club's dominance, Rafael Benítez's charges might have got a goal back in the 22nd minute when Miguel Britos ghosted in unmarked from a corner, only to head harmlessly over.
The tempo slowed as half-time approached, and Arsenal began to drop deeper as the second half progressed. Napoli were largely restricted to long-range shots, but with Lorenze Insigne and Marek Hamšík seeing more of the ball, the hosts could not relax – particularly when substitute Dries Mertens cut inside and curled a shot at Wojciech Szczęsny in the 71st minute.
At the other end, Laurent Koscielny almost made the game safe for Arsenal in 76th minute, but his close-range effort following a corner was well blocked by Reina. By then, though, Arsenal had done enough.
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