Arsenal, Chelsea, Roma advance in Champions League
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 10, 2015 09:52 AM
Arsenal's players wave to their fans after the Champions League Group F soccer match between Olympiakos and Arsenal at Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Piraeus port, near Athens, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. Arsenal won 3-0. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Arsenal left its best performance for the last game of the Champions League group stage, advancing to the round of 16 with a remarkable 3-0 victory at Olympiakos on Wednesday. Chelsea also went through on a good night for English soccer with a 2-0 home win over FC Porto.
"I told you before that it would be the greatest escape," Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said.
Both Arsenal and Chelsea were trying to avoid following in the footsteps of fellow Premier League club Manchester United, which was eliminated on Tuesday.
Roma's 0-0 draw against BATE Borisov was just enough to allow the Italian club to edge Bayer Leverkusen for second place in its group. Leverkusen couldn't manage more than a 1-1 home draw against already qualified Barcelona as Lionel Messi scored his 80th goal in the tournament.
Belgian side Gent advanced in its first ever Champions League campaign after beating already qualified Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1, a result that eliminated Valencia in Gary Neville's first game in charge of the Spanish club.
Here is a group-by-group look at Wednesday's matches:
With nothing to play for, group winner Barcelona played Bayer Leverkusen with a largely reserve side bolstered by Lionel Messi. And the Barcelona captain came through again, scoring his 80th Champions League goal.
He collected a perfect through ball from Ivan Rakitic and rounded the goalkeeper to score in the 20th. Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez leveled three minutes later but it was too little for Leverkusen to advance.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was without Neymar because of an injury and benched Luis Suarez to give him some rest, while Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique didn't even travel to Germany.
"We had enough chances to win the match," Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt said. "It's very disappointing."
In Rome, the hosts did the bare minimum against BATE Borisov and the 0-0 draw was enough to place it second behind Barcelona. Roma and Leverkusen each finished with six points but Roma held the edge with a better head-to-head record. BATE finished last with five points.
Olivier Giroud scored a hat trick as Arsenal advanced with a 3-0 win over Olympiakos, overturning an advantage held by the Greeks ahead of the final match.
The France striker opened the scoring in the 29th minute and struck again four minutes after halftime. He closed the scoring by converting a penalty kick in the 67th.
"Not many people gave us a chance but we are a real team," Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said. "It is certainly one of my best European results. We had to produce a perfect performance to win and we did just that."
Olympiakos, which beat Arsenal 3-2 in London, would have advanced with a draw.
Group winner Bayern Munich beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 with a pair of goals by striker Robert Lewandowski.
Chelsea finally had something to celebrate in its unexpectedly poor season after qualifying for the knockout phase with a 2-0 home victory over Porto.
The hosts scored through an own goal by Ivan Marcano in the 12th and Willian sealed the victory in the 52nd.
Chelsea not only avoided the embarrassment of dropping into the Europa League, but Jose Mourinho's team advanced as the group winner. His former club, Porto, finished third and was eliminated.
Dynamo Kiev advanced in second place thanks to a 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in Ukraine. The game was played in an empty stadium in the Ukrainian capital Kiev as part of Dynamo's punishment for racist attacks by its fans in October.
Dynamo will also have to hold the home leg of its first knockout round tie behind closed doors.
Gent gave Belgium a spot in the knockout stage after beating group winner Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 with goals by Laurent Depoitre and Danijel Milicevic.
Even a defeat would have been enough for Gent because Lyon went to Valencia and beat the hosts 2-0.
"They were better than us and there's no excuse," said Valencia coach Gary Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender who took over the Spanish club on Sunday. "We can't be happy with how we played and we can't blame anyone."
Zenit easily won the group with 15 points, five more than Gent. Valencia was third with six points and Lyon last with four.
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