80 min: A fluent Arsenal move concludes with Mkhitaryan playing a smart pass from the right byline to Ramsey, who is free 10 yards from goal. But he leans back and scoops his shot over the bar! That’s a bad miss and leaves the tie precariously poised.
78 min: Arsenal seem to have reshaped their priorities. Their main concern now appears to be avoiding the concession of an away goal.
Arsenal substitution: Elneny on, Torreira off, to huge applause.
75 min: Ramsey leads another attack, loping forward with cutting grace. He swaps passes with Iwobi and then feeds Kolasinac, who is rather less blessed with grace. He rushes his cross from inside the box, banging it straight into a defender when teammates were calling for a tap-in.
72 min: Insigne skitters down the right to collect a pass from Hysaj. He plays in a lovely pass on the run across the face of goal. Zielinski, arriving in space at the back post, has a wonderful chance to plunder an away goal … but he slides in awkwardly and nudges the ball high and wide. With more composure he would have simply slot into the net. What a let-off for Arsenal!
69 min: Kolasinac bombs down the left and into the box before firing a hard ball across the face of goal. The keeper pushes it half-away. It falls to Maitland-Niles, who tries to smash it into the net first time from eight yards. He drills it into the ground, and the keeper adjusts quickly to push the bouncing ball to safety.
68 min: Ramsey is crowded out in midfield – a symptom of how the game has changed – and Napoli attack down the right. Insigne’s cross is cleared at the near post.
Arsenal substitutions: Mkhitaryan and Iwobi on, Lacazette and Ozil off. Shrewd moves by Emery. He has recognised that the momentum had swung towards Napoli and his team need fresh thrust.
Napoli substitution: Milik on, Mertens off. The Belgian has been quiet.
64 min: A bit of anxiety is creeping into the home crowd as Napoli start to play with more zip, stretching Arsenal’s defence more.
63 min: Monreal makes a panicky clearance after Zielinski spoons the ball acros the face of goal from the left.
62 min: Oh! That was a much better pass, a lovely dink over the top by Insigne. But Mertens failed to get a touch on it as he tried to flick a header past Cech.
61 min: Rui overhits a cross from the left. Their final pass has been systematically woegeous so far.
58 min: Arsenal work a clever corner, Ozil tipping it to Kolasinac, who rolls it into Ramsey, who lets fly from 10 yards. The keeper does well to push it over. From the ensuing corner Monreal heads over from eight yards.
57 min: Kolasinac clips a nice pass through to Ozil, who nonchalantly helps it on to Aubameyang. Running into the left-hand side of the box, Aubemeyang tries to blast a shot past the last defender and into the net, but it’s diverted out for a corner.
55 min: Napoli are looking a touch more sprightly, but Arsenal remain dangerous, too. The next goal in this could the one on which the tie is truly decided. “So since Koulibaly scored for Arsenal does that mean they get to keep him?” pleads Dwight Moe. “I’m sure the club would give up Mustafi to make up the numbers…” What would be really interesting would be if Liverpool signed him. Pair him with Van Dijk and they might never concede again.
53 min: Cech slides in to try to stop the ball going out of play but he slides out of play with it, conceding a corner. Koulibaly meets the delivery and nods over, via the fingertips off Cech.
52 min: Insigne slots the ball into the net after receiving a pass while about three yards offside. No goal. “Get it right, you idiot!” barfs Andy Goodison. “Uefa has credited the second goal to Torreira, so why don’t you?” Have you been in secret talks with Uefa, Andy? Because idiotic me is just going by what their official website is saying and what my own eyes told me: that Torreira’s shot was going wide until the inadvertent deflection off Koulibaly.
48 min: Red alert at the back for Arsenal as Monreal fail to intercept a long pass from deep. Suddenly Insigne is running free down the right. But his weak cross is put behind for a corner, which is cleared.
47 min: Hysaj booked for a lazy foul on Lacazette near half-way.
46 min: The teams re-emerge for the second half, to the sound of Tears for Fears over the stadium PA. No, not Shout – this is the Emirates, after all.
“A very solid 45 minutes for Arsenal,” confirms Pete Mumola. “Will be interesting to see if they keep up the pressure or focus on possession for the clean sheet. I’d take 2-0 over 3-1, personally.”
“Nine shots on target!?” gasps Wendell D’Souza. “Surely the away fixture won’t bother them too much?” You are evidently not familiar with the absurd riddle that is Arsenal’s home/away mindfail.
Tell you who’s enjoying this match, apart from Arsenal fans: Juventus. Because Ramsey has been splendid in midfield, full of sharpness and finesse. Torreira has been brilliant in there, too, and Maitland-Niles is having a blinder from right wingback.
Half-time: Arsenal 2-0 Napoli
“It’s been terrific from Arsenal,” exults Charles Antaki. “But they’re having the grace to lighten it cup with a good dash of the comedy element – ample misplaced passes, mysterious runs, and the supreme air-kick by Lacazette. But otherwise it’s all going well. Too well, surely?” Not well, enough, I’d say. They’ll need at least another goal bearing in mind that there’s still an away leg to come. But on the evidence so far, they’re certainly capable of scoring again. They’ll need to keep an eye on the spaces behinh their wingbacks, though, because that’s where Napoli have threatened on the rare occasions they’ve hinted at nicking an away goal.
44 min: What a chance! Allan caught out Kolasinac with a pass into the right-hand channel. Callejon scampered on to it and pulled the ball back to Insigne, who had a free shot from 15 yards. The excitement overwhelmed the striker and he blazed miles over!
43 min: Ozil dances between two Napoli players in midfield … but then runs into Koulibaly. Dribble over.
42 min: A stray pass by Ramsey sets up a Napoli attack, which ends with a token shot from long range by Rui. It sails high over the bar.
41 min: It’s practically a cut-and-paste move. Arsenal win the ball in midfield and zoom forward again. This time it concludes with Maitland-Niles slipping a pass through to Aubemayang, who tries to lob the keeper on the run from close range. It’s saved easily.
39 min: Yet again Arsenal win the ball in midfield – they are absolutely lording it in there – and that sets up an attack down the left through Ozil. Aubemeyang eventually opens fire from outside the area. The keeper spills his low shot but pounces on the fumble before Lacazette can punish him.