A hat-trick from Olivier Giroud inspired Arsenal to victory and qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League as they claimed second spot in Group F at the expense of Olympiakos. Arsenal started on the back foot, with Olympiakos getting some early pressure. However, Arsenal came into the game and by the 15th minute were starting to pose a threat themself; they didn’t look back from there. Giroud’s first came after a wonderful reverse pass from Mesut Ozil, who found Aaron Ramsey to the left of the cross; Giroud headed Ramsey’s cross towards the near post and although Roberto got a hand to it, the ball bounced up, hit his head and went into the net.
Arsenal kept their lead until half time and extended it in the 49th minute; some excellent close control from Joel Campbell and an incisive pass allowed Giroud to fire into the far post, moments after it looked like he might have to come off injured. The second goal put Arsenal up into second in the group, but a goal from Olympiakos would have changed all that. Arsenal secured victory and qualification with a penalty in the 67th minute. Omar Elabdellaoui slid to stop a shot from Nacho Monreal and the ball hit his arm, with the referee (harshly, in my opinion) awarding a penalty. Giroud duly dispatched the spot kick, sending Roberto the wrong way.
Before the match, much was made of the dead ball play of Olympiakos, but only one corner forced a save from Petr Cech (and that was from a header that was straight at him). Many set pieces, particularly early on, seemed to either be played short or delivered outside the box.
Arsenal are now in the knockout stages for the 16th consecutive season and will await the draw with interest. They will not be able to play Manchester City, Chelsea or Bayern Munich, so will play either Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg or Zenit St Petersburg; I am sure that if given the choice, they would opt for Zenit, which appears to be the easiest draw on paper.