Wenger can avoid Greek tragedy

Alexis Sanchez makes it 3-0 for Arsenal with his second goal against Dinamo Zagreb. The win keeps alive their hopes of making it to the last 16 of the Champions League for the 16th consecutive year.
Alexis Sanchez makes it 3-0 for Arsenal with his second goal against Dinamo Zagreb. The win keeps alive their hopes of making it to the last 16 of the Champions League for the 16th consecutive year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS

A win against Olympiakos by desired margin in last match will clinch spot in round of 16

LONDON • Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal will complete their Champions League escape act by securing the result they need against Olympiakos to reach the last 16.

His side kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages for the 16th successive year, thanks to an inspired display from Alexis Sanchez in Tuesday's crucial 3-0 home victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

The Gunners would have been eliminated if they had failed to beat the Croatians or if Olympiakos had drawn against German champions Bayern Munich.

The Bavarians won 4-0 to guarantee top spot in Group F while Arsenal, who have six points, will try to overhaul the second-placed Greeks (nine points) in the qualification shoot-out on Dec 9.

A 2-0 victory or any win by scoring three goals will send Arsenal through to the knockout phase.

GUNNERS CAN CALL THE SHOTS

So we can go in a confident mood because, a few rounds ago,we were almost out of the competition and now we have everything in our hands to progress.

PETR CECH, Arsenal goalkeeper

Said Wenger: "What we wanted is to come out of the game with a chance to qualify. We had to do our job and Bayern had to do theirs.

"How big the chance to qualify is I don't know but I believe we can do it. First of all, we need to win. It might not be enough to just do that, but if you lead 1-0, you can win 2-0.

"One advantage is the task is very clear. Of course, it is vital to score the first goal."

The team will be ready for the "grand finale" in Greece next month, said goalkeeper Petr Cech.

"If we create chances, play our game and put them under pressure, we have a chance to score our goals in the game and make the difference we need," he said.

"So we can go in a confident mood because, a few rounds ago,we were almost out of the competition and now we have everything in our hands to progress. That is the situation, which is actually good for us.

"We need to make sure we go there and get the result no matter how and (get) in the draw for the last 16."

While Wenger is confident of Arsenal's progress, he knows his team have lost on their last three visits to Olympiakos in the Champions League and this time the always volatile Greek fans will be even more fired up.

The Gunners boss expects a hostile atmosphere but does not believe it will get out of hand despite the recent cancellation of the Panathinaikos against Olympiakos clash owing to serious crowd trouble.

If Arsenal are to silence the Olympiakos crowd, they will need another influential performance from Sanchez, who set up Mesut Oezil's opener against Dinamo and then scored twice himself.

Wenger was delighted with Sanchez's latest masterclass and stated he had no qualms about leaving the Chile forward on even when the result was long since decided.

"Alexis is a very important player," he said. "I would have loved to take him off but I needed to give Olivier Giroud a breather.

"Once it is 3-0, you are in a position where Sanchez doesn't need to work back so you can save his energy a bit by playing him up front."

Dinamo manager Zoran Mamic admitted that his side had been out-classed and he backed the Gunners to achieve the result they need in Greece.

He said: "We have to be honest. There is a big difference in money and quality of players between ourselves and teams like Arsenal.

"I'm sure they can go through.

"They have much more quality than Olympiakos in my opinion."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'WENGER CAN AVOID GREEK TRAGEDY'. Print Edition | Subscribe