Olympiacos FC secured their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after claiming a narrow victory against a youthful Arsenal FC side.
Leonardo struck the only goal of the game two minutes after half-time as the Greek champions ensured a first knockout round place as Group H runners-up behind Arsène Wenger's side. Having already clinched top spot, the Arsenal manager fielded a starting lineup with an average age of just 21, but they were unlucky not to snatch at least a draw with Carlos Vela coming close twice.
Zico had stressed in advance the need for Olympiacos not to simply look for the draw they required, but it was the visitors, with Theo Walcott full of running, who controlled much of the early possession as the home team made a nervous start. Moving the ball around confidently, it took Arsenal just ten minutes to register the first effort on goal, Walcott stinging the palms of Antonis Nikopolidis with a sharp shot from inside the penalty area. Kostas Mitroglou responded three minutes later, slicing an effort over the crossbar.
Arsenal were then presented with a chance to take the lead when Olof Mellberg felled Vela just outside the box, but Walcott smashed his free-kick straight into the defensive wall. The Greek champions then broke and Luciano Galletti volleyed Leonardo's cross into the side-netting. Arsenal continued to control the midfield, however, and Walcott, back in the team after a hamstring injury, was proving a constant threat in and around the penalty area with his quick feet and darting runs.
Galletti was Olympiacos's main outlet down the right and the Argentinian gave left-back Thomas Cruise a difficult Arsenal debut. The visitors kept their hosts at arm's length, though, and it took Mitroglou 43 minutes to register Olympiacos's first shot on target with a speculative effort which Łukasz Fabiański gathered comfortably. Shots followed from both Dudu and Raúl Bravo as Olympiacos pressed forward, both sailing over the crossbar.
The second half began with a flourish when Olympiacos took the lead two minutes in. Arsenal were caught cold when the ball broke kindly for Leonardo in midfield and the Brazilian winger surged into the penalty area before slotting through the legs of Fabiański. Frenzied celebrations ensued as the home fans sensed the first knockout round was near, although they had cause to be thankful just four minutes later when Vela burst through and only a brilliant Nikopolidis save kept his team ahead.
Walcott curled a free-kick just round the right post as the Gunners stepped up the pressure and Vela prodded over with only Nikopolidis to beat in the 70th minute. At the other end, Leonardo was denied by Fabiański's sprawling save after being played in by Dudu and the visiting goalkeeper then got the faintest of touches to direct a Mitroglou effort wide. Arsenal pressed forward in the closing stages as they sought an equaliser but Nikopolidis put in several good blocks to secure a third home win in the group and with it a place in the last 16.
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