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Giroud hat-trick fires Arsenal into Champions League last 16

Photo Courtesy: independent.co.uk
Photo Courtesy: independent.co.uk

Arsenal managed to progress to the last sixteen of the Champions League following an impressive 3-0 victory at Olympiacos.

Olivier Giroud proved to be the man of the moment as he netted a hat-trick to ensure Gunners’ progress to the knockout phases of the Champions League for the 15th time in a row.

Backed by the deafening roars of the home crowd, Olympiacos made the livelier start in the opening stages of the game, restricting the Gunners to their own defensive third with a series of attacking moves.

However, the first real chance of the game arrived in the 20th minute when Seba narrowly missed the target from the edge of the box. Pardo, after managing to evade Nacho Monreal on the right flank, whipped a cross towards Seba on the edge of the box. The Brazilian immediately fired an effort, but his shot was just over the crossbar.

Olympiacos’ first effort on target seemed to bring Arsenal back to life as they themselves came very close to breaking the deadlock in the 25th minute. Giroud, after doing brilliant to lose his marker, slid in a through ball towards the path of Joel Campbell, who blazed into the area before laying a pass for Mathieu Flamini. The Frenchman was able to quickly fire an effort, but his shot went over for a goal kick after clipping the top of the crossbar.

The scores, however, did not remain goalless for long as the Gunners broke the deadlock through Giroud in the 29th minute. Aaron Ramsey whipped in a fantastic cross towards the near post and the Frenchman was able to connect with a powerful header that crept in under Roberto, after talking a deflection off the post.

Nine minutes later, Giroud, after taking on two defenders, made an excellent diagonal run towards goal, before teeing up Theo Walcott with a pass. The England winger tried his luck from 20 yards, but his effort was wide of the target.

Moments later, at the other end, Laurent Koscielny showcased some textbook defending as he managed to turn Pardo’s inviting cross over for a corner, before it could find a Olympiacos player.

There were some concerns on Giroud’s fitness just after the start of the second half when the striker landed awkwardly on his right ankle. However, the Frenchman went on to make a full recovery before finding the back of the net in the 49th minute.

Campbell, after successfully taking on four defenders in the box, sent a superb ball towards Giroud, who made no mistakes as he side-footed a finish under Roberto to double his and Arsenal’s tally.

The hosts got a very good chance to pull one back in the 58th minute when Kostas Fortounis, after drifting in from the right, moved into a very dangerous position inside the box. The Grecian midfielder fired a venomous effort towards, but Petr Cech was able to expertly tip Fortounis’ effort wide. Soon after, Per Mertesacker was forced to make a superb block to prevent Brown Ideye from narrowing his side’s lead.

Just when Olympiacos finally started getting a foothold into the game, they conceded a penalty in the 66th minute. Walcott picked out Monreal with a good cross at the far post, and the left-back immediately went for goal. Elabdellaoui threw himself into the path of Monreal’s effort and the ball struck his arm, giving the referee no choice but to point at the spot.

Giroud stepped up and made no mistakes as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, sticking the ball into the bottom left corner to complete his hat-trick.

Despite being outclassed by Wenger’s men, the hosts continued searching for goals, but Arsenal’s defence stood firm and the game finally ended 3-0.

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