Özil magic leads Arsenal to 2-0 win over Napoli, Atletico downs Porto with Arda's late goal
LONDON - Reuters
Mesut Özil scores a goal against Napoli during Arsenal's Champions League soccer match at the Emirates stadium in London, Oct. 1. REUTERS photoMesut Özil bewitched Napoli to conjure up a 2-0 Champions League win for Arsenal on Oct. 1 and end the Italian side's unbeaten start to the season. Quite the opposite of Atletico Madrid as the Spanish side made it seven consecutive wins in all competitions beating Porto away 2-1 with Arda Turan's late winner.
In London, Özil scored the opening goal of the match, 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 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. 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.
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.
Atletico Madrid came from behind to keep their stunning start to the season going with a 2-1 win away to Porto in the Group G.
Colombian international Jackson Martinez had headed the hosts into a deserved 16th-minute lead, but Atletico improved mightily after the break and were level when Diego Godin nodded home Gabi's free-kick.
Arda Turan celebrates after scoring a goal against
Porto. REUTERS photo
With Zenit St Petersburg and Austria Vienna drawing in the group's other game, the Spanish outfit are now thoroughly in control of the section.
Portuguese champions Porto had the best of the match early on and Atletico had a warning when Silvestre Varela headed meekly into the arms of Thibaut Courtois on 10 minutes.
However, Diego Simeone's men were punished just six minutes later when Josue's free-kick from the left was bulleted into the net by the head of Martinez for his sixth goal in eight games this season.
Lucho Gonzalez then fired over and had a headed effort comfortably held by Courtois as the hosts continued to dominate.
Atletico were missing their suspended top scorer Diego Costa, but they did manage to come back into the game midway through the half.
Raul Garcia and Arda both saw efforts fly over before the former hit the bar with a flicked header after Helton had flapped at Gabi's corner.
Courtois was called into action again before half-time to keep Atletico in the game as he parried Varela's driven shot from the edge of the box with his foot.
Simeone reacted at the interval by introducing Cristian Rodriguez for the ineffective David Villa and saw an instant improvement in his side.
Filipe Luis fired an effort from 25 yards just wide before the equaliser arrived just prior to the hour mark.
Once again Helton was found wanting from a cross ball into the box and Godin rose highest to bundle the ball home from close range.
Both sides had chances to win it in the final quarter as Juan Quintero sent a free-kick from the edge of the area just wide before Garcia ought to have put Atletico in front when he fired into Helton's legs with just the goalkeeper to beat 13 minutes from time.
And the visitors did manage to nick the three points when Gabi played a clever reverse pass in behind the Porto wall from a free-kick and Arda remained composed in front of goal to drill the ball home from a narrow angle.
Elsewhere, 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. r Ramires scored twice as Chelsea got their Champions League Group E campaign back on track with a convincing 4-0 win over Steaua Bucharest. AC Milan snatched one point in dramatic finish