Olympiakos 0 Arsenal 3: Gunners seal qualification in epic greek adventure

Author: Sylvester Mbagwu

 

Arsenal defy the odds to seal qualification to the knockout stages at the expense of Olympiakos.

The prospect of the Arsene’s men having to overcome a modern day Poseidon had many a Gooner wondering if it would be a tale of Greek tragedy, or the sort of epic triumph that Apollonius’ Argonauts would have been proud of.

 

After losing their first 2 games, the odds were stacked heavily against Arsenal to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, out of the 110 teams that have lost their opening 2 group stage matches only 9 of them were able to qualify for the knockout rounds. The loss of key men in Sanchez, Cazorla and Coquelin further compounded the improbability of Arsenal’s qualification on the Port of Piraeus.

As expected there were signs of nerves in the opening minutes, Olympiakos wide man; Pardo was put through and blazed over with his left foot.  Moments later Ideye Brown found an ocean of space, vacated by Mertesacker but he was unable to capitalise on the opportunity. Olympiakos managed to create other half chances in the opening 20 minutes and it wasn’t until the 24th minute that Arsenal were able to gather the composure and create their first meaningful chance of the night. Target man Giroud was able to bring down a long ball whilst challenged by 2 Olympiakos defenders; he laid it off to Joel Campbell who drove into the Olympiakos penalty area and cut it back to the arriving Flamini who smashed it against the cross bar. It was this nice bit of play that settled Arsenal and from then on, the match was largely controlled by the travellers.

Arsenal increasingly dictated the game and only 4 minutes after smashing the cross bar we finally made our break through. Ozil received a pass from Ramsey under tight pressure and after some nice footwork and hold up play, Ozil managed to return the ball with a delightful through ball as he turned simultaneously. Ramsey played a left footed cross into the near post area and Giroud was there to finish off with a powerful header low to the keepers right.

As the first half progressed, we managed to create a few more half chances but ultimately they came to nothing. Olympiakos posed little threat other than a dangerous cross which Koscielny nearly diverted into his own goal.

The second half began worryingly with Giroud looking to have injured himself however the big Frenchman managed to patch himself up and minutes later he was scoring the goal that put us ahead of Olympiakos in the table. Like our opening chance of the game, the move began with a long ball to Giroud. He knocked it down to Ozil who with his first touch played a delightful looping through ball over the Olympiakos defence to Joel Campbell. Campbell brought the ball down wonderfully with his knee and then proceeded to hold the ball up with some elusive footwork until the time was right to play a perfectly weighted reverse pass to the arriving Giroud. Giroud finished with aplomb and his celebration mocked Ramsey’s failed knee slide after his late goal against Sunderland on the weekend.

With Olympiakos now behind in the group they increased the intensity of their attacks and Petr Cech was forced into an acrobatic save after some intelligent play by Konstantinos Fortounis. Soon later Ideye Brown was inadvertently put through via a shot but Martesacker was able to do just about enough to put the striker off and managed to survive the scare. Olympiakos continued to push for the goal that would keep them in the competition however in the 65th minute we were awarded a penalty after an Olympiakos defender blocked a shot with a trailing arm and Giroud stepped up to put the game to bed and claim the match ball. Getting his first competitive hattrick for Arsenal in a big tie is bound to do his confidence some good and at least temporarily silence his critics. More importantly it killed off any hope that Olympiakos had to progress and the remainder of the match was smooth sailing.

Now that we’ve ensured knockout qualification it’s important that we learn from our mistakes and perform better in the round of 16. With the squad that we have assembled we really should be faring better in the knockout rounds and we should be able to call back Sanchez, Coquelin, Rosicky, Wilshere and Welbeck for our next Champions league tie.

 

 

By Sylvester Mbagwu ‘ Obsessed Gooner who’s passionate about all things Arsenal’

 

 

Guest Writer

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