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Giroud fires Arsenal into knockout stages
Olivier Giroud's hat-trick ensured Arsenal would live to fight another day in the Champions League as they dispatched Olympiakos to reach the Round of 16 in Greece.
With pressure on their shoulders to preserve a quite immaculate record of qualifying from the group in Europe's elite club competition, they lived out an uncomfortable early spell as the Greek champions fed off the infectious energy in Athens. Mathieu Flamini's shot deflecting on to the crossbar however was a sign that the North Londoners were getting well into contention.
By half-an-hour, they took the lead. Aaron Ramsey picked out Giroud at the near-post who directed it off the keeper and into the goal, really shifting the initiative to the Gunners and sparking a flame to push on. At the half-time interval that lead remained in tact, before the framework was installed for Arsenal to further the lead.
Still not securing their position in the knockouts, a frantic search to find a second was concluded with finesse. Joel Campbell was the benefactor of Giroud's knock-on before he held the ball up well to coincide with the Frenchman's darting run into the box, placing it past the keeper to spark jubilant English celebrations.
When Elabdellaoui was penalised for handball on Monreal's shot with over twenty minutes from the whistle, the opportunity arose for Giroud to complete his hat-trick and secure Arsenal's spot in the knockout stages. He stepped up, ever reliably, and dispatched to keep things well on track to conclude an outstanding revival effort from a side who seemed completely down when they suffered a beatdown at the hands of Bayern Munich.
Mourinho's European lifeline lives on
While Chelsea's dreadful title defence of the Barclays Premier League is well documented, Stamford Bridge seemed to forget about it, and rightly so, as Jose Mourinho's men went on to top their group with a victory over Porto.
Diego Costa was influential in the game although he did have a bit of a bust-up with fellow Spain teammate Iker Casillas. The goalkeeper collected the ball before Costa could get to it when running towards the box and appeared to be swept down subsequently forcing the referee to book the striker and separate the two compatriots.
On a more pleasant note he was involved in what was a fortuitous moment for the Blues when his shot was stopped by the keeper only for it to rebound of Ivan Marcano and trickle into the goal to provide optimism for the masses in support of Mourinho and his men.
The Portugese side were unable to conjure up significant threats that would wobble or divert the course of action for Chelsea, and when Willian fired home from around 25 yards in the second half to double the lead, Chelsea's Champions League hopes were alive and kicking as they topped a very tight group.
Leverkusen fall out of competition after draw with Barcelona
Barcelona's final group stage game was a quite ending to only the first chapter of their title defence while Bayer Leverkusen exited the tournament after a draw which saw both sides grab a goal apiece at the BayArena.
Lionel Messi re-embraced his scoring form with arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo racing ahead with four-goals against Malmo in the previous night, ending a dull opening to the game as the Argentine raced through on goal when picked out by Rakitic. With Leno approaching, he used his trademark trickery to take the ball around him and angle it straight into goal.
They wouldn't be on top for too long however with the red-hot Chicharito Hernandez scoring within three minutes. Mehmedi surged down the left, with Calhanoglu guiding on his cross for the Mexican to fire into the roof of the net and keep the possibility of qualification alive for the remainder of the game.
Ter Stegen breathed a sigh of relief as his error was not punished with Mehmedi unable to get on the end of Hernandez's ball, while the Germans continued to cause trouble but just couldn't break through Barca and subsequently saw their run in the Champions League, albeit an entertaining one, come to an end.
Dream debut continues for Gent
In their first Champions League season, Gent continued to the knockout stages as they were victorious over Zenit St. Petersburg to ignite celebrations in Belgium.
Attacking with a purpose right from the whistle, they were rewarded for their early efforts when Depoitre gave them a lead heading past Lodygin.
But, when Dzyuba's close-range attempt found goal the task was back at large and the game was all to play for as the Russians continued to exemplify their dominance.
Around ten minutes after the equaliser though, Milicevic's excellent finish would make Gent the first Belgian side to reach the Champions League knockout stage in one and a half decades.
Best of the rest
Elsewhere, Roma played to a scoreless draw with Bate Borisov while Dynamo Kyiv punched their ticket to the knockouts with Garmash's goal lifting them past Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Gary Neville's Valencia run started with a major stumble as they lost by two goals to Valencia while Bayern enjoyed a routine win against Dinamo Zagreb.