OLIVIER Giroud was Arsenal’s hero as the Gunners and Chelsea succeeded on Wednesday where Manchester United failed a day earlier to advance to the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League.
The London clubs celebrated on the final night of group stage action as Roma, Dynamo Kiev and the Belgian underdogs Gent also secured their places in the knockout phase.
Arsenal had needed to overturn a 3-2 defeat at home to Olympiakos earlier in the season when they faced the Greek champions away in a Group F showdown.
Arsene Wenger’s side had lost in Piraeus on three separate occasions in recent seasons, but France striker Giroud gave them a first-half lead and crucially doubled their advantage shortly after the restart following superb play by Joel Campbell.
Giroud then netted a penalty in the 69th minute to seal Arsenal’s place in the last 16 for the 16th season in a row, although finishing second in their group exposes them to the possibility of being drawn against Real Madrid or Barcelona in the next round.
Group winners Bayern Munich finished with a 2-0 victory at Dinamo Zagreb thanks to a second-half Robert Lewandowski brace as Thomas Mueller missed a late penalty and coach Pep Guardiola claimed his 100th win in charge.
“I told you before that it would be the greatest escape,” Wenger told BT Sport, referring to successive defeats to Dinamo and Olympiakos to start the group that had put the Gunners in a perilous position.
“Nine times out of 10 you are out (after such a poor start). We needed something special to come back like we did and tonight we needed a complete team performance.”
Enduring a difficult season domestically, Chelsea progressed to the last 16 as Group G winners with a 2-0 win at home to Jose Mourinho’s old side Porto as Ivan Marcano’s early own goal put them ahead and Willian scored in the second half.
“The players were really committed to get a result, as much for their pride.
They didn’t want to go to the Europa League,” Mourinho said, as his team avoided the fate of United, forced to settle for the consolation of dropping into the secondary continental competition after defeat at Wolfsburg on Tuesday.