Olympiakos 0 Arsenal 3: Giroud hat-trick seals knock-out spot

A 'special night' for Wenger as Arsenal let rip – and scrape into the Champions League last 16 on goal difference

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(Image credit: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Arsenal booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a commanding win in Greece, cruising past Olympiakos in possibly their most important match of the season so far.

Needing to win by either a two-goal margin, or a one-goal margin if the scoreline was 3-2 or higher, the Gunners flew out of the traps – but it wasn't until the half-hour mark that Olivier Giroud opened the scoring, heading past Roberto Jiménez Gago in the Olympiakos goal.

At most Arsenal needed just one more goal to go through, but Giroud got them two for good measure, stabbing home after good work from Joel Campbell just after half-time and sealing the result when he stroked home a penalty with 25 minutes remaining.

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"It took a while for them to overcome early nerves," says Amy Lawrence in the Guardian, "but once the flickers of optimism turned into a flow, Arsenal constructed the result they deserved."

The win means they finish as runners-up in group F, ahead of Olympiakos on goal difference.

With the likes of Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain pushed into second place in their respective groups, the draw for the next round looks relatively benign – if they can avoid the twin Spanish threats of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Those two giants aside, Arsenal could face a third La Liga side in Atletico Madrid, Manchester United's conquerors of Tuesday night, Wolfsburg, or Zenit Saint Petersburg, who took advantage of a weak group to ease through at the expense of Gary Neville's Valencia.

"It will make us stronger and strengthen the belief of the squad," said Arsene Wenger after the match. "It is a special night for us because, as we said before the game, we were in escape mode.

"We needed something special and when you deliver something special it can create positive memories for the rest of the season," he continued. "Maybe it’s a lucky year for us in the Champions League, you never know."

With his side having exited the tournament in the first knock-out stage for the past five years, both he and the fans will be hoping their luck extends to the last 16 draw on Monday.

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