Despite a 2-0 defeat to Napoli on Wednesday night, Arsenal progressed to the Champions League knockout stages alongside Borussia Dortmund. It was an extremely hollow victory for the hosts, who fell a goal short of the scoreline they needed to overtake the Gunners and progress.
There were few chances created in a cagey first few minutes, with every Arsenal touch of the ball greeted by a chorus of Neapolitan jeers. However, it was the Gunners who had the best early opportunity halfway into the first half, when Olivier Giroud's effort from inside the penalty area was palmed away by a diving Rafael.
Napoli looked to play at a high tempo and hit Arsenal down the flanks on the counter, though after a frantic few minutes the pace of the game began to slow. That played increasingly into the visitors' hands, with Arsenal rarely put in difficulty. The partenopei had a final half-chance just over five minutes before the break, though Christian Maggio's optimistic chip harmlessly cleared the crossbar.
After a slow start to the second half Napoli began to rally, and had a good chance to take the lead when Pablo Armero found some space down the left just short of the hour. Unfortunately when in the penalty area he prodded the ball right into the arms of Szczęsny. Winger José Callejón gave the Gunners another brief scare moments later, though he fired his low shot across goal and wide of the target.
The partenopei surge continued with 20 minutes left, though Napoli striker and one-time Arsenal transfer target Gonzalo Higuaín lashed the ball over the bar from a tight angle after some smart play down the right. However, he would make amends just moments later, turning Per Mertesacker in the area before lashing the ball low into the back of the net. With Borussia Dortmund -- who needed a win to leapfrog Napoli -- being held by Marseille, the San Paolo erupted.
Inside the final 15 minutes Napoli were given a huge boost, as Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta was sent off for a second bookable offence. However, they didn't add any further goals to their tally, and were made to pay the price when Borussia Dortmund took the lead in the dying moments of their match. Callejón added a second for Napoli in the final few seconds, but it was too little, too late.
The partenopei needed a third goal to overtake Arsenal, but the final whistle spelled the end of their Champions League dream. Arsenal, on the other hand, progressed by the skin of their teeth.
Napoli: Rafael; Armero, Albiol, Fernández, Maggio; Behrami, Džemaili; Callejón, Pandev (Insigne 57'), Mertens; Higuaín.
Goals: Higuaín (73'), Callejón (93').
Arsenal: Szczęsny; Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Jenkinson; Arteta, Flamini; Cazorla (Ramsey 68'), Özil, Rosický (Monreal 74'); Giroud.
Red cards: Arteta (76').