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.
Juventus claimed top spot of Group D and secured their qualification for the last 16 with a match left following a 1-0 victory over Manchester City. Juventus started well, but Manchester City soon came into the game and Fernandinho wasted their best chance of the half with a wildly struck shot over the crossbar. Moments later, a cross from Alex Sandro found Mario Mandzukic unmarked at the far post and he sidefooted a volley past Joe Hart and into the net. Manchester City appealed for a foul by Mandzukic (who looked around after the ball went into the net), but the goal was allowed to stand.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first of Manchester City seeming to have more of the ball, but Juventus looking more likely to score. A header from Fernando following a corner hit the post and was claimed by Gianluigi Buffon and Raheem Sterling, who came on as a substitute, connected poorly with a cross and it went wide for a corner after a deflection; besides these two chances, little of real note was created. Juventus came close to doubling their lead when Morata lifted the ball over an onrushing Hart, but Sturaro could only hit the post with his touch as he tried to divert it goalwards.
Whilst Manchester City had 59% of the ball, they created relatively little that was threatening on the Juventus goal and Buffon, with the exception of the header tipped onto the post and some poor backpasses from the defence, had quite a quiet evening. Juventus will top the group if the avoid defeat in their final game against Sevilla, which could result in Manchester City facing Barcelona in the last 16 for the third consecutive season. It must a concern for Pellegrini that the team seems to rely on Aguero for goals, is currently short of striking options and didn’t look like scoring throughout the game.
Arsenal set up a decisive final match against Olympiakos in Greece in Group F of the Champions League following a comfortable victory over Dinamo Zagreb. Arsenal were in control from the start, with Zagreb spending a lot of time in their half and unable to relieve the pressure for any extended period of time, but Arsenal were unable to create many chances as Eduardo remained untested. Arsenal broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when a cross from Alexis Sanchez was met by Mesut Ozil with a diving header from 6 yards out. Arsenal doubled their lead 5 minutes later when a poor Zagreb clearance was picked up by Monreal and he crossed for Sanchez to pass the ball into the far corner.
Arsenal remained in control through the second half, although Zagreb did create a few more chances. Sanchez added Arsenal’s third by rounding the keeper and firing into the roof of the net in the 69th minute. Arsenal came close to adding a fourth after a delightful chip from Sanchez, but Ozil’s deft backheader just went wide.
For Arsenal to qualify, they need to travel to Greece and beat Olympiakos, a tough ask but one they are capable of. Following the first fixture between the two (which Olympiakos won 3-2) means that Arsenal need to win by two goals (or one if they score three or more). Arsenal will need as good a performance as the one against Zagreb to qualify; if not, they will be competing in the Europa League.
The clash between the top two teams in Group A ended in a goalless draw, with few chances throughout. Both sides seemed happy to take a point from the game, with neither side applying any prolonged periods of pressure throughout. The game promised much, but delivered little. Neither side appeared to want to take any risks and look to win the game, preferring to hope for a mistake from the opposing defence. With both teams on six points coming into the game and all but certain to qualify, it is surprising that they did not look to establish a commanding lead in the group, especially PSG who were at home. It was the worst game I have seen in the Champions League for quite a long time.
Despite Bayern Munich having 70% possession, Arsenal recorded their first victory in Group F of the Champions League and kept their hopes of qualifying alive. Bayern Munich started well and Cech was forced into a good save following a one-two moving the ball into the Arsenal area. However, the best chance of the half fell to Walcott, who had a header magnificently saved by Manuel Neuer. Munich continued pressing in the second half, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Giroud opened the scoring in the 76th minute after coming on as a substitute; Neuer came out to collect a free kick, missed the ball and it hit Giroud and went into the net. Ozil completed the scoring in stoppage time, although it initially appeared that Neuer had produced another wonderful save after clawing the ball out, but the official behind the goal gave it as a goal, which replays confirmed.
Bayern controlled the ball well, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Cech made a couple of good saves, but most were routine. In contrast, Arsenal allowed Bayern to have the ball and looked to hit them on the break, using the pace of Walcott. The tactic worked well and it will be interesting to see if Arsenal take the same approach in Germany and if they do, if Bayern will have a way of breaking them down.
Following Japan’s 34-32 victory over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup, BBC Sport has been asking about top sporting shocks. I think that Japan’s victory is the biggest shock that I can remember, but here are some others that I can think of:
Lennox Lewis V Hasim Rahman
Lewis was the heavyweight champion of the world going into this fight in April 2001 and was expected to retain his belt against Rahman, a virtual unknown. Rahman was only fighting because Mike Tyson had been suspended and was a way of keeping the champion busy. However, Rahman had not read the script and knocked Lewis out in the fifth round and became the champion. The rematch in November 2001 saw Lewis fully prepared and he regained the title with a knockout victory in the fourth round, but the result in April had definitely been a shock.
Telford Tigers 8-3 Peterborough Phantoms
I think this is the game I am thinking of and it happened in January 2009 (although if I am wrong and anyone knows differently, please let me know). The Tigers team at the time was not the greatest and were losing most weeks. Peterborough started well and were leading 2-0 at the end of the first. The result looked to be certain, with the only question being what the losing margin would be. I can’t remember if the Phantoms made it 3-0 or not, but I do remember the Tigers producing an outstanding 2 periods of hockey to demolish the Phantoms 8-3, with power forward James Knight helping himself to 4 goals. A great and completely unexpected comeback.
The 2012 Ryder Cup
After two days, America were in a 10-6 lead over Europe (they had been leading 10-4 at one point on the Saturday) and only required 4.5 points to win the Ryder Cup. Europe dominated the singles matches on the final day and the final score saw Europe winning 14.5 to 13.5, with the result being known as ‘the Miracle at Medinah’.
Manchester United 0-0 Exeter City
The third round of the FA Cup in the 2004/05 season saw non-league Exeter City travel to Manchester United. Even with Manchester United naming a weakened side, they were still expected to win comfortably against their opponents, especially as they had home advantage. Despite dominating the game, Exeter stuck ruggedly to their task and claimed a memorable draw. For the replay at Exeter, Sir Alex Ferguson named a much stronger side who won 2-0, but the draw at Old Trafford arguably ended the Manchester United careers of several players who started that day.
Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)
The final of the Champions League saw Liverpool take on AC Milan in Istanbul. Milan scored in the first minute through the highly unlikely figure of Paolo Maldini and they extended that lead with two further goals in the second half. Convinced the game was over, some Liverpool fans were seen leaving at half time. However, 3 goals in 5 minutes in the second half saw Liverpool level the scores before going on to claim victory in the penalty shoot-out. A shock result, especially after the half time score; also, Italian teams are famed for being defensively sound, so for one of them to blow a 3-0 lead made it an even bigger shock.
Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich
A shock result because of the dramatic way that it happened; Munich were winning 1-0 in the 90th minute following a 6th minute goal by Basler and were moments away from lifting the trophy. However, Manchester United levelled in stoppage time through Sheringham and then took the lead and victory with a further goal in stoppage time from Solskjaer.
A complete shock at Euro 92, as Denmark beat Germany 2-0 in the final. Whilst that result was a shock, the bigger shock was that Denmark were there at all; they had not qualified for the tournament and only knew they were competing 11 days before the tournament started, replacing a banned Yugoslavia following the civil war there.
Brazil 1-7 Germany
Germany beating Brazil is perhaps not a shock, but the emphatic nature of the scoreline coupled with it being in the semi-final of a World Cup being hosted in Brazil made it arguably one of the most shocking results in perhaps not only the history of the World Cup but of football history itself.
A highly unfancied Greek side somehow claimed victory at Euro 2004, managing to grind out results. Greece’s victory was arguably more shocking than the Danish victory of 1992 as the Greek side did not appear to have any standout players, relying instead on a strong, disciplined defensive game. It was rarely pretty, but highly effective.
Germany 1-5 England
Qualifying for the 2002 World Cup saw Germany and England in the same qualifying group. Whilst not the strongest German side ever, they claimed victory in the final match at the old Wembley (which resulted in Kevin Keegan resigning as England manager). The return fixture in Germany saw them take an early lead, before 5 English goals saw a shocking scoreline. I can remember the general sense of disbelief after the game.
I have only included shocks that I can remember seeing or having read about, thus not including other notable sporting shocks from the past.