By Niall Clarke
- Arsenal defeat Olympiacos 3-0 to secure a last 16 place
- Olivier Giroud scores a hat trick
- Chelsea defeat Porto 2-0 to secure top spot in Group G
An inspired Olivier Giroud hat trick completed Arsenal’s Houdini act as they came from the brink of exit to secure a last 16 place.
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The Gunners came through 3-0 winners away at Olympiacos on a night where they needed to win by two goals to advance.
The victory will be owed a lot to French striker Giroud, who had previously been criticised for his lack of impact in the big games. However, he silenced the critics with a marvellous performance to keep Arsenal in the competition.
An early goal was vital, and when Giroud rose to head home Aaron Ramsey’s cross Arsenal were on their way.
Just five minutes after the half time interval, the Frenchman was at it again. Some excellent work by Joel Campbell allowed him to square the ball to Giroud who gratefully tucked away his second of the evening.
Olympiacos, knowing their chances of progressing were fading before their eyes, tried to press to get themselves back in the game but could only force a single save from Petr Cech.
Instead it would be Arsenal that killed the tie off. Omar Elabdellaoui was the culprit of a handball in the penalty area, and Giroud was the grateful converter of the spot kick to complete his hat trick.
When the Arsenal striker left the field as a late substitution, Gooners that had travelled to Piraeus to see their team overcome the odds stood and applauded the Frenchman for arguably his finest ever performance in an Arsenal shirt, and boy was it a crucial one.
The victory sealed a place in the last 16, something they have not failed to do for 15 years. Of course the second place finish will mean there is a high possibility of drawing a Barcelona or Real Madrid in the next stage, but for now Arsenal are heading into the last 16.
Bayern secured top spot with a 2-0 victory at Dinamo Zagreb. Robert Lewandowski scored a brace as the German champions eased to victory.
Chelsea secure top spot in group G
In what could be a turning point in their season, Chelsea secured top spot in group G with a 2-0 victory at home to FC Porto.
The Blues only needed a draw to advance to the next stage, but the risk of finishing second is that you could draw the likes of Bayern Munich or Barcelona in the last 16.
There was a huge slice of fortune for the first goal. Diego Costa found himself through on goal, but his shot as saved by the on rushing Iker Casillas, but unfortunately for the Portugese side the ball ricochet off Ivan Marcano and into the net.
This Chelsea performance was a far cry from the ones in the Premier League this season, and victory was sealed with a Willian goal. For once it was not from a free kick as the Brazilian found himself through on goal before firing home with his right foot.
It was a good performance from Jose Mourinho’s men, perhaps their best of the season. Could it revitalise the Premier League champions?
In the groups other game, Dynamo Kiev joined Chelsea in the last 16 with a 1-0 victory at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
It was not all good news for the English as gary Neville lost his first game in charge of Valencia to Lyon. The French side ran out 2-0 victors in the Mestilla but the Spaniards will drop into the Europa League. It will be Gent who join Zenit in the last 16 for the first time in the clubs history. The Belgian champions defeated the Russian side 2-1 to end their 100% record and make it three straight wins to advance.
Roma remarkably made it through with just six points after a 0-0 draw with BATE Borisov. Bayer Leverkusen could only managed a 1-1 draw with Barcelona and therefore the Italian side advance due to their head to head record with the Germans.
The Champions League returns in February for the round of 16. The draw will take place on Monday at 11AM GMT.
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