Arsenal advances despite 2-0 loss at Napoli in CL

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm •  Published: December 11, 2013

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Ten-man Arsenal advanced to the Champions League knockout phase for the 14th consecutive year despite a 2-0 loss on Wednesday at Napoli, which was eliminated from the competition.

Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 73rd minute but the San Paolo stadium was soon silenced when word arrived that Borussia Dortmund had scored a late goal in a 2-1 win at Marseille to win Group F.

Jose Callejon added another goal for Napoli in added time but it made no difference.

Arsenal was reduced to 10 men when Mikel Arteta picked up his second yellow card in the 76th.

Dortmund, last season's runner-up, won the group with 12 points. Arsenal and Napoli also finished with 12 but Napoli was eliminated on goal difference, becoming the first club to exit with 12 points under the current format.

Marseille finished last in the group with zero points.

"It just shows you in this group there were three very good teams," Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said. "With Marseille taking no points at all, one team had to suffer."

Napoli will drop into the Europa League, while Arsenal joins fellow English clubs Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in the last 16.

"It's incredible to exit after taking 12 of 18 points and getting them against the best English squad and the European runner-up," Higuain said. "I don't think that has ever happened."

Despite its group-stage success, Arsenal has never won the Champions League, losing the 2006 final to Barcelona being its best result.

Arsenal needed only a draw to be sure of advancing as group winners, while Napoli needed to win by a three-goal margin.

Wenger acknowledged some regret at not winning the group.

"Of course there is frustration. But it could have been worse tonight as well," he said then mentioned the streak of reaching the knockout round. "Maybe No. 14 will be good luck."

Napoli fans whistled when Arsenal had the ball, while the group of about 1,000 Arsenal supporters inside the visitors section at the San Paolo stadium was mostly quiet.

Wenger rested standout midfielder Aaron Ramsey at the start, using Tomas Rosicky instead on the right wing, while Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina missed the match with a right thigh injury, opening the way for 23-year-old Rafael Cabral to make his European debut.

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