Reigning Greek champions Olympiakos managed to defeat Arsenal 3-1 tonight but fell short of progressing to the knockout phase of the Champions League.
The Greek outfit needed all three points and required Borussia Dortmund to hold Marseille but after the Germans held a two-goal lead late in the first half, the French outfit struck three times to retain second spot in Group F and join the Gunners in the next stage.
The opener came for the home side 16 minutes in when Rafik Djebbour managed to slot home past Lukasz Fabianski after David Fuster’s through ball deflected off both Thomas Vermaelen and Sebastien Squillaci. The touches from the Arsenal defenders allowed Djebbour to take control before rounding the Gunners keeper for the Algerian’s eighth goal in his last ten outings in all competitions.
Olympiakos added a second in rather calamitous circumstances in the 36th minute when Arsenal’s substitute keeper Vito Mannone advanced out of the area in an attempt to head the ball clear. He could only get it as far as Fuster who lobbed it goalward with the Italian gloveman trying to kick it clear when not realising he was back in his own area to use his hands.
Against the tide, Arsenal hit back in the 57th minute when Yossi Benayoun fired a sweetly-timed volley past Balasz Megyeri to give the visitors some sort of hope. Substitute Ignasi Miquel whipped in a cross from the left which was knocked down by Marouane Chamakh for Benayoun to lash home.
With two minutes remaining, Olympiakos grabbed a third when Olof Mellberg’s header from a corner was denied by the far upright but it fell perfectly for Francois Modesto who tapped it home with ease.
It was thought around the Karaiskaki Stadium that Olympiakos had made it through to the Round of 16 but news soon filtered around that Mathieu Valbuena had netted a late winner for Marseille.
Both sides had a number of chances with Olympiakos the better of the sides throughout the 90 minutes as the Gunners lost goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to a knee injury inside 25 minutes but Arsene Wenger’s managed to finish on top with 11 points ahead of Marseille on 10 with Olympiakos third on six and Dortmund bottom with four points.
Olympiakos (GRE) 3 (Rafik Djebbour 16’, David Fuster 36’, Francois Modesto 88’)
Arsenal (ENG): 1 (Yossi Benayoun 57’)
Karaiskaki Stadium, Athens
Yellow cards: OLY - Avraam Papadopoulos 4’, Jose Holebas 29’
ARS - Emmanuel Frimpong 61’, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 81’