Olympiacos 0 - 3 Arsenal: Arsenal through to finals

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud completes his hat-trick from the penalty spot  last night. Picture: Getty Images

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud completes his hat-trick from the penalty spot last night. Picture: Getty Images

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  • Arsenal: Giroud (29’, 49’, 67’ pen)
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OLIVIER Giroud inspired Arsenal to complete a Champions League group stage comeback as his hat-trick at Olympiacos sealed their place in the last 16.

Going into the game having lost three of their previous five fixtures, the Gunners needed to win by two goals or more at the Karaiskakis Stadium or better the 3-2 defeat they suffered at home to the Greek champions in September.

Giroud produced the goods when it mattered as Arsenal made light work of a seemingly difficult task.

Arsenal become just the eighth side to advance through their group having taken three points or fewer from their opening four matches and Arsene Wenger will now be hoping to avoid the big names as they will come up against a group winner in the next round.

The Gunners took their time as they felt their way into the contest but finally stirred as Joel Campbell’s cutback was struck goalwards by Mathieu Flamini, with a deflection off Manuel da Costa taking the ball onto the crossbar.

But the opener came just moments later as Mesut Özil produced a sublime pass to set Aaron Ramsey away. His near-post cross was met by the head of Giroud and the ball squeezed over the line as Olympiacos goalkeeper Roberto was unable to deal with it.

The hosts nearly equalised as another sloppy pass by Hector Bellerin left Arsenal exposed and Brown Ideye’s cross was turned inches over his own crossbar by Laurent Koscielny as the game remained finely poised at the interval.

There was concern for Giroud at the start of the second half as he fell awkwardly on his ankle, but he got himself back on the pitch and soon doubled Arsenal’s lead after another well-worked move. Özil again started everything with a clipped pass to Campbell, the former Olympiacos loanee controlling well under pressure before sliding a perfect pass into the path of Giroud for the France striker to sweep home. Theo Walcott came close to adding a third to give Wenger’s men some breathing space but his effort was blocked behind for a corner. Petr Cech then showed just why Wenger was so keen to sign him in the summer as he pushed away a curling Kostas Fortounis shot with the hosts looking for the one goal they needed to advance at Arsenal’s expense.

Ideye should have done better when picked out in front of goal, but Per Mertesacker cleared before the former West Brom forward could pounce.

Olympiacos had begun to set siege to Cech’s goal but they were undone when referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the penalty spot as Nacho Monreal’s shot was blocked by the arm of the diving Omar Elabdellaoui. Giroud duly despatched the penalty to complete his hat-trick and send Arsenal into Monday’s draw for the first knock-out stage as they saw out the contest with minimal fuss.

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