Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger has praised his team’s spectacular UEFA Champions League narrow escape in Greece on Wednesday night.
The Emirate club was on the verge of crashing out of the prestigious championship at the group stage for the first time in 16 years, needing to equal or better the shock 3-2 defeat they suffered against Olympiacos in the reverse fixture last September to progress to the knock out stage.
In the end, the Gunners delivered a perfect performance on the night with striker, Olivier Giroud’s brilliant hat trick all that was required for the Wenger-led side to join fellow London side, Chelsea and Manchester City into the knockout stages.
“Tonight we needed a complete team performance. This team is really a team and they showed it tonight. It is a fantastic achievement for us”, declared an elated Wenger after the game.
“I must say I am very proud of the team because we needed to be right on the mental side and the tactical side as well. We had the perfect game”, he added.
In London, Chelsea hammered FC Porto 2-0 to emerge winners of Group G to banish the demons of poor performance that has plagued the club’s campaign so far.
It took just 12 minutes for José Mourinho men to find a breakthrough as Ivan Marcano deflected the ball into his own net after Iker Casillas saved Diego Costa’s initial shot.
In-form Brazilian attacker, Willian fired in his seventh goal of the season to seal the victory for Chelsea early in the second half.
“It was an important result for the players and for the club. It is important to go through to the next stage with the best teams”, declared Jose Mourinho after the game.
The three surviving English clubs joined three Spanish clubs, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid, two German Clubs, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg; and two Italian clubs, Juventus and As Roma. Also through to the last of 16 are Paris Saint Germane (France), Zenith Saint Pittsburgh (Russia), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Benfica (Portugal), Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) and Gent (Belgium).
The round of 16 pairing will be decided on Monday in Nyon at 11am with group winners squaring up against runners up from different groups. All the16 teams will be split into two separate pots, one consisting of the winners – the other consisting of the runners up. The eight ties will see a group winner take on a group runner up.
There are just two restrictions in the next round, teams from the same country cannot play each other in the last 16 and you cannot be drawn against a side which progressed with you from the group stage.
By Olisemeka Obeche