Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had striker Olivier Giroud to thank as the Frenchman’s hat-trick secured a 3-0 win over Olympiakos on Wednesday night.
What a performance! We’re through to the last 16 of the Champions League after a superb display away against Olympiacos, a notoriously tricky venue.
Olivier Giroud was hugely dominant once we grew into the game, and picked the perfect time to score his first Arsenal hat-trick.
We started off a little nervously, and the Greek side were looking dangerous going forward. We thought they may sit back and look to counter, but they were really taking the game to us.
We weathered the early storm though, and soon began to apply some pressure of our own. We probably should have been ahead after one move in particular, with Olivier Giroud starting an attack with his first really positive involvement. He’d struggled to get into the game early on, and the Olympiacos defence was certainly sticking close to him. He displayed great strength and excellent hold-up play to pluck the ball out of the air, sliding Joel Campbell into space down the right. The Costa Rican cut a great ball back into the box, and it was surprisingly Mathieu Flamini who was there to meet it. He slipped as he shot though, and the ball agonisingly smashed into the bar.
We soon were ahead though thankfully, with Mesut Özil the orchestrator. He turned skilfully and showed his usual impressive vision to pick out Aaron Ramsey, and the Welshman fired the ball into the box towards Olivier Giroud. The big forward powered a header goalwards, with the keeper unable to keep it out at his near post. 1-0.
We had Laurent Koscielny to thank for our lead at half time, with Giroud’s compatriot making a brilliant interception to prevent a certain goal. Half the job was done by the time the whistle came, but we were far from home and dry.
There was a real scare in the opening minutes of the second half, with our goalscorer Olivier Giroud going over horribly on his ankle while clearing the ball. It looked as though he wasn’t going to be able to continue, but he jogged back onto the pitch to test it out.
Thank goodness he did, as moments later he’d doubled his and Arsenal’s tally with a superb goal.
Özil played a ball over the top towards Joel Campbell, who pulled the ball from the air with a lovely touch. He shielded the ball well and showed quick feet to get away from a couple of defenders, putting a sumptuous pass on a plate for an onrushing Giroud. The HFB smashed it past the keeper with ease. 2-0.
That would have been enough to see us through, but one goal still would have undone us. There was a sense we needed a third, but it looked for a while like we were going to retreat into our shell.
Petr Cech had to make a couple of great saves to keep Olympiacos out, and Per Mertesacker slid in quickly to prevent what looked set to be a mirror image of the goal we conceded against Norwich.
Thankfully we finally got the all important third goal, the one that all but guaranteed our place in the last 16.
Great work from Giroud down the right saw him pick out Nacho Monreal on the opposite flank, and the Spaniard charged into the area. His goalward bound shot was blocked by the hands of Omar Elabdellaoui, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Giroud was allowed to step up to the spot for the chance to complete his hat-trick, and didn’t disappoint. He sent the keeper the wrong way, and wheeled off in celebration. 3-0.
We had a number of chances to score again, but looked content with our 3-0 win. There were a few defensive subs late on, and we comfortably saw out the game.
It was a phenomenal performance from back to front, and we 100% deserved our dominant victory. We’re likely to face a hugely difficult match in the next round, but for the moment we should be celebrating this victory.