By Niall Clarke
- Arsenal defeat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0
- Chelsea defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv
- Arsenal still in competition; Chelsea…
Arsenal secured a big victory over Dinamo Zagreb to keep their Champions Leaguer hopes alive heading into the last group stage fixtures.
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The Gunners quite simply needed to win. Anything less would see them exit the group stages for the first time in 15 years. It is remarkable consistency, but their form from the first four games left a lot to be desired. A 2-0 home victory over Bayern aside, Arsene Wenger’s team have lost their other three games, including a 2-1 defeat in Zagreb on match-day two.
Even scarier is that survival was not entirely in their hands. If Olympiacos avoided defeat away at Bayern Munich, Arsenal would be out not matter what they achieved thonight.
After a 2-1 defeat to West Brom at the weekend there were lingering doubts that the Gunners could make it. The response was exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Gunners were superb going forward. Their quick passing and movement off the ball was more like the Arsenal people expected to see. The reward came on the half hour mark when Mesut Ozil headed home from an Alexis Sanchez cross.
If the opener was a relief, the second would get Gooners cautionally optimistic. The man who set up the first scored the second after a howler from the Dinamo defence allowed Nacho Monreal to lay it off for Sanchez to tap into an open goal.
The Chilean would seal the result beyond any doubt by adding a third as Arsenal hit cruise control. Dinamo tried salvaging some pride by pushing forward to get their side of the scoreboard rolling, but they could not find the back of the net.
Sanchez would have a penalty shout ten minutes from time when he was brought down by Eduardo but the referee did not give it. However it would be irrelevant to the score-line as the Gunners cruised to a 3-0 victory.
Victory was sweet, but it would be only made tastier when the result from Munich came through. The dominant Bayern swept Olympiacos aside 4-0 at the Allianz arena, with three goals coming in the first 20 minutes. It was over before it even began, and Bayern cruise through to the last 16 and even more importantly from an English perspective, gives Arsenal a lifeline.
It all now rests on the crucial final group stage meeting in Greece. Anything less than a win by two goals for Arsenal, unless they score more than two goals will see the Gunners exit the competition. Olympiacos have proven tough to beat in Athens, so it is a difficult task lying in front of Arsenal. But given what could have been after tonight, Gooners will take their chances in the final grou stage match.
Chelsea sweep 10 man Maccabi aside
Chelsea sat second heading into match day five but quite precariously with Dynamo Kiev clipping at their heels. But a 4-0 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv means it will come down to the final fixture to decide the Blues’ fate.
The Israeli’s have been statistically the worst team in the competition, scoring only one goals and conceding 11 in their four matches thus far. Jose Mourinho’s men therefore did as expected with another 4-0 win.
Gary Cahill gave the Blues the lead, firing home a rebound. Ex-Chelsea centre back Tal Ben-Haim would then receive his marching orders before half time after hacking down Diego Costa.
However, the ten men of Tel Aviv came back strong in the second half and started to create chances. However the numbers game would soon take its toll. Willian has not only proven to be Chelsea’s bright spark in other-wise a cloudy season, he has also proven himself to be one of the best dead ball specialists in Europe.
That sentiment now holds more weight after another free kick goal doubled Chelsea’s lead. That gave the Premier League champions the cushion they needed, and from there Oscar and Kurt Zouma would complete the four goal rout.
Victory for Porto at home to Dynamo Kiev would seal qualification for not only themselves, but for Chelsea too. However, the Ukrainian’s had not read the script.
The Portuguese side’s unbeaten run that stretches back to the 6-1 thrashing away at Bayern last season was ended with a 2-0 defeat. The situation now leaves Chelsea only needing a draw at home to Porto to seal qualification to the next stage. A loss and a victory for Dynamo would send the Blues packing.
Barcelona scored the biggest win of the night with a 6-1 thrashing at home to Roma. In the groups other game, BATE Borisov held Bayer Leverkusen to a 1-1 draw in the early kick off. Barcelona are through as group winners, but with 1 point separating Leverkusen and Roma from BATE, it’s all to play for the final qualification spot.
Zenit remained the only perfect side in the competition with a 2-0 victory against Valencia in St.Petersburg. Lyon meanwhile suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Gent which puts the French side out and the Belgians well in contention to secure qualification.
The Champions league continues tomorrow with the Manchester clubs in action
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