London – Mesut Özil bewitched Napoli to conjure up a 2-0 Champions League win for Arsenal and end the Italian side’s unbeaten start to the season.
The Germany midfielder scored the opening goal, his first for Arsenal, with a superb left-foot effort from the edge of the penalty area after eight minutes and set up Olivier Giroud for Arsenal’s second after 15.
Any lingering doubts that the former Real Madrid player was worth the 43 million pounds (R651 million) that Arsene Wenger paid for him in August were swept away in a magical first-half display of precision passing, great movement and feints, and Aaron Ramsey played his full part as the sorcerer’s apprentice.
Arsenal’s second win after their 2-1 success in Marseille put them on six points in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, who beat Marseille 3-0 tonight. Arsenal and Dortmund meet in the next two rounds of games.
Arsenal made two changes from the side that beat Swansea 2-1 at the weekend, bringing Tomas Rosicky straight back from injury into the midfield to play behind Mikel Arteta who replaced England’s Jack Wilshere.
The home side were further boosted by the failure of Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, an Arsenal target during the summer transfer window, to recover from a calf injury.
Goran Pandev kept his place after scoring both goals in Napoli’s 2-0 defeat of Genoa on Saturday.
Arsenal dominated possession from the kick-off and the opening goal followed two flashes of individual skill, first by Giroud to put Ramsey in space down the right and then from Özil.
He opened up his body to hit Ramsey’s cross first time past Pepe Reina from 18 metres with all the grace, timing and power of a Roger Federer forehand winner.
Reina saved a Mathieu Flamini effort soon after the eighth-minute opener as Napoli failed to stem the Arsenal tide of possession.
It was no surprise when Özil profited from a poor Napoli throw-in near the Italians’ goal line to race through on the right and set up Giroud for a tap-in from five metres.
The visitors’ centre-back Miguel Britos should have done better with a free header from a corner halfway through the first period but Arsenal had almost complete control in midfield and funnelled attack after attack down the flank guarded by left-back Camilo Zuniga.
Rafael Benitez’s side showed more cohesion in the second half but the threat to Wojciech Szczesny’s goal was largely restricted to shots from distance.
Substitute Dries Mertens managed a shot on target shortly after coming on but Arsenal nearly scored a third when Laurent Koscielny’s close-range shot was blocked by Reina with 15 minutes left.
Meanwhile, Brazil midfielder Ramires scored twice as Chelsea got their Champions League Group E campaign back on track with a convincing 4-0 win over Steaua Bucharest at the National Arena tonight.
Slick-passing Chelsea dominated from start to finish and could have won by a bigger margin.
The visitors went ahead in the 20th minute when Ramires lifted the ball over the goalkeeper from three metres and they made it 2-0 with an own goal from Daniel Georgievski just before halftime.
Ramires made it 3-0 with a thumping finish soon after the interval after the dangerous Andre Schurrle surged down the left and found Oscar who teed up his fellow countryman.
Frank Lampard completed the rout with a low shot into the corner from 18 metres after good work by substitute Willian on 90 minutes.
Barcelona, missing the mercurial talent of the injured Lionel Messi, laboured to a 1-0 win in their Group H Champions League game against 10-man Celtic in Glasgow.
The only goal came after 76 minutes when Neymar swept the ball out to substitute Alexis Sanchez on the right and his back-post cross was headed home by the unmarked Cesc Fabregas.
By then Celtic were down to 10 men having had Scott Brown dismissed just before the hour mark for catching Neymar in the back with his boot after the Brazilian went down in a challenge.
Basel 0 – 1 FC Schalke 04
Borussia Dortmund 3 – 0 Marseille
Zenit St Petersburg 0 – 0 FK Austria Wien
FC Porto 1 – 2 Atlético de Madrid
Ajax 1 – 1 Milan
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