Custom Search 1

Arsenal's Euro stars avoid Greek tragedy

FLAT OUT FOR GLORY: Grounded Olivier Giroud celebrates with Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil (right)

ARSENAL QUALIFIED from their Champions League Group F with a thumping 3-0 win against Olympiakos in Athens to send the Gunners into the last 16 for the sixteenth consecutive season. Olivier Giroud scored his first ever Arsenal hat-trick against a Greek side who had won at the Emirates.

Pointless after their first two group games, Arsenal rallied with home wins over Bayern Munich and Dinamo Zagreb, although they did suffer a 5-1 reverse to the Bundesliga side in their return tie. It then all came down to a one game winner takes all shoot out with Olympiakos, and Arsenal prevailed in raucously partisan conditions where every player stood strong and delivered when it mattered. In Monday's last 16 draw, the Gunners will face either Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletico Madrid, Wolfsburg or Zenit.

Arsenal treble hero Giroud summed up his team's performance after the win. "We feel really pleased tonight, we had a good celebration all together after the game, as a unit, we wanted to do it. It's been a few years where we missed it, so we really wanted to go through this group stage, even if we were in a bad position for the first games. We bounced back and we have shown a great team spirit and mental strength," he said.

His overall performance was the catalyst at the top European table, and the Arsenal striker was happy to prove his doubters wrong. Giroud leapt to win the header and fed Campbell on the right. Campbell spotted Mathieu Flamini who was screaming for the ball, and duly received the pass. Flamini's shot was true, but with Roberto beaten, the ball hit his upright. The Olympiakos defence failed the clear the danger, as Nacho Monreal crossed for Giroud to head again, but this time Roberto collected the ball.

Theo Walcott is still getting his match sharpness after his return to action last weekend against Sunderland. After a surging run, the England striker found Aaron Ramsey, with then Mesut Özil picking up proceedings, but heading away from the Olympiakos goal. It was a ploy which sucked in the Greek side, as Özil's sweeping pass came bask to Ramsey.

The former Wales captain sent over a cross which an unmarked Giroud latched onto with a powerful diving header to beat Roberto at his near post for the opening goal of the game on the half hour mark. The Gunners were halfway to claiming the minimum two goal margin they needed to progress.

Walcott then flexed his calves with a run and shot which didn't trouble Roberto, but had he slipped in Campbell to his right, the Gunners may easily have gotten their second goal. Still it was coming. Just before the break, Pardo's cross had Laurent Koscielny struggling to cover, but to the relief of Petr Cech, he managed to get his leg onto the cross to deflect for a corner to the home side.

Cech was enjoying a commanding performance between the sticks at a hostile European away game, and all his experience on the big stage was of huge benefit to the Gunners. It was the Czech Republic keeper's ball out which saw Arsenal double their lead. Giroud headed Cech's goal kick onto Ozil.

The German's lobbed pass found Campbell who controlled with two touches and the Costa Rican had the strength to slip in Giroud with a clever reverse pass, which the France striker clipped left footed past Roberto for a 2-0 scoreline. The cauldron of noise fell dramatically in shock from the home support, save for the 1200 Arsenal fans who were now screaming in delight and sensing last 16 dreamland.

Stunned but still not giving up, Olympiakos tried to claw back the lead. Fourtunis let fly from 20 yards, a shot which Cech had to turn around his upright for a corner.

Arsenal were in control and soon were three goals to the good. Monreal 's cross as he tidied up from Giroud's original cross from the right hit the arm of Elabdellaoui and a penalty was awarded to the Gunners.

On a hat-trick, Giroud took the spot kick, sending Roberto the wrong way to claim his first ever Arsenal treble, and complete a famous Champions League win for his side. Poised and confident, the win left Arsene Wenger beaming at the final whistle.

" We've shown a great team spirit, great attitude, great character. We go it tactically right I think and we didn't hide the whole game. We tried to score goals, and the advantage of what we were in, our task was clear and that shows you it is important. For the Greeks it wasn't as simple, you need to defend and that's not easy. Can you just defend, are you a little bit in the great zone, that's not easy to handle," said Wenger.

" It was a very top level game, with top level performance from everybody and we have been a real team tonight and I'm very proud of that. We have now qualified 16 consecutive years for the last 16, if you cannot handle the pressure, you don't do that," added the Arsenal boss.

With the Champions League ambitions back on track and set to return next February, it will be back to Premier League business when Arsenal will look to consolidate their domestic campaign with the trip to Aston Villa on Sunday.

Subscribe to The Voice database!

We'd like to keep in touch with you regarding our daily newsletter, Voice competitions, promotions and marketing material and to further increase our reach with The Voice readers.

If interested, please click the below button to complete the subscription form.

We will never sell your data and will keep it safe and secure.

For further details visit our privacy policy.

You have the right to withdraw at any time, by clicking 'Unsubscribe'.

Facebook Comments