Olympiakos 0-3 Arsenal: Olivier Giroud Fires Gunners Into Champions League Last 16
Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick secured Arsenal’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League for the 16th straight season as they beat Olympiakos 3-0.
Needing to win by at least two clear goals in Athens on Wednesday night, the Gunners produced the perfect away performance to pip the Greeks to second spot in Group F.
Giroud broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when he headed home from Aaron Ramsey’s cross.
The Frenchman made it 2-0 shortly after half-time from Joel Campbell’s pass and then scored a third from the penalty spot after 69 minutes to ensure Arsenal join Chelsea and Manchester City in the next round.
Qualification to the last 16 completes a remarkable turnaround for the Gunners as they become just the eighth side to advance through their group having taken three points or fewer from their opening four matches.
That they did so without so many injured players, including Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez, makes the feat even more impressive.
They will now look ahead to the draw for the last 16 next Monday, when they could be drawn against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg or Zenit St Petersburg.
The injury-hit Gunners were boosted by the return of Theo Walcott, who made his first start since suffering a calf injury in late October.
But it took them a while to get into the contest in a hostile atmosphere at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
It was Olympiakos who looked the brighter side in the early stages, with Felipe Pardo and Seba causing problems for Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal down the flanks.
The Gunners grew into the game and went close to taking the lead after 25 minutes as Mathieu Flamini’s deflected shot struck the bar from Campbell’s cut-back.
Shortly afterwards, the visitors took the lead as Mesut Ozil played a clever pass out to Ramsey on the left and his cross was headed in at the near post by Giroud.
Walcott then fired wide from just outside the area but Olympiakos also threatened at the other end as Laurent Koscielny cleared a cross over his own bar.
There was a worrying sight for Arsenal at the start of the second half as Giroud landed awkwardly on his ankle and seemed to be in some pain.
However, the Frenchman continued and made the defining impact on the match.
He doubled the lead in the 49th minute after Campbell controlled well in the box and slid it through for the striker to finish.
The goal meant Arsenal would qualify for the last 16 and Olympiakos tried to muster a response to wrestle back second spot.
Petr Cech saved from Kostas Fortounis and Brown Ideye could not sort his feet out when he was well placed in front of goal.
However, just as the Greeks were enjoying a sustained spell of pressure, they conceded the crucial third.
Nacho Monreal’s cross hit Omar Elabdellaoui’s arm and Giroud dispatched the spot-kick to send Arsenal into Monday’s draw.