Our last game of the Champions League group stage saw us in the Karaiskaki against Arsenal. The gunners had already qualified from this group and will finish in first place no matter what happened, therefore they brought a very youthful squad to Athens for the match tonight.
We, however, needed to win to ensure that we would continue in Europe. A draw may also have been sufficient but qualification would then depend on results elsewhere in the group. We had some injury problems ahead of the game and so the lineup used was not as we would have liked but we had to make the best out of what we had available. We ended up starting off in a 4-3-3 formation with Mirallas, Holebas and Djebbour as the basis of the attack.
As for the game itself, we had our first chance of the match just two minutes after the start and kept pressure on the Arsenal line throughout the opening minutes. Arsenal also attacked though during the opening phase forcing to save an Arshavin shot and coping with the following corner. During the first ten minutes of the match though, we had been making the lions share of all the attacking and despite two surges forward during this period, Arsenal had been on the defensive.
Arsenal were starting to find their feet in the match and made a couple of attacks coming dangerously close to our goal whilst we subsequently attacked and came close to scoring ourselves from a close range Djebbour shot. Moments later, Djebbour opened the scoring when placed through on goal by a pass by Fuster which split the defence. Djebbour rounded the keeper and struck it low into the back of the net to open the scoring.
Attacks, Fuster and the second goal
Mirallas came next with a chance for goal with a shot catching Fabianski off his line but just missing the goal. Djebbour similarly came close to grabbing a second goal just moments later but failing to connect with a low cross into the box. Arsenal were forced to substitute their keeper following the last attack after he suffered an injury and after the game restarted, we started on the attack again only to see the game halted after an injury to Coquelin.
A second goal is scored for Olympiakos, this time by Fuster after a mistake by Mannone. We had made some pressure on the goalkeeper and he had come too far out of the box allowing Fuster to make a cheap shot on goal which he failed to save and watched helplessly and the ball crept over the line. We made further attacks on the Arsenal goalmouth during the half, coming close to scoring on a number of chances. Arsenal came forward in a final flourish to the half, winning a corner but failing to do anything else before the half ended (after 5 minutes of stoppage time).
The second half started off with an attack for us and a strike on goal by Modesto which was saved and pushed wide for a corner. Mirallas was next with a chance on goal seeing his effort pushed out wide by the keeper. A series of corners for us followed which were ultimately fruitless but we continued to attack and force a number of chances from the Arsenal defence. It was Arsenal who scored next though with a strike from Benayoun which left Megyeri little chance to save the ball. To make matters worse at this point, Modesto missed a superb chance to score with a header after the keeper was firmly beaten to the ball.
Arsenal's goal seemed to give them more spark and they started to come back into the game more and bring the ball into our half. We started to change our tactics to suit, pulling players back into the defence and counter attacking to relieve the pressure. This tactic looked to be working as we won a number of chances near to their area when attacking to relieve the pressure. Eventually Arsenal had another chance on our goal with Rosicky however Megyeri managed to save his effort and we avoided conceding for the moment.
3-1 - Game Over
We were now in the final ten minutes of the game and if lucky, on course to qualify from the group. We continued to counter attack coming very close to scoring for the umpteenth time from a Mirallas shot. The game by now was becoming very end to end with Arsenal creating as much pressure as we were. We next attacked through Abdoun and got even closer to the goal than ever (with a suspected Arsenal handball) but again failed to put our chances away. With the game at its climax, we had a final goal to seal the win. A free kick near the corner flag was shot into the box where Mellberg got a header on the ball. The Arsenal keeper managed to save the ball but then spilt the ball to Modesto who poked it home.
The game finished after 3 minutes of extra time but although we won, we drop into the Europa League having gained 9 points in total. Nevertheless, we can be proud of our team tonight for the performance they gave and the support by our fans. Our European adventure continues in the Europa League this season.
Olympiakos 3-1 Arsenal
Olympiakos : Megyeri, Torosidis, Mellberg, Papadopoulos, Marcano, Maniatis, Fuster (64' Abdoun), Modesto, Mirallas, Holebas (37' Orbaiz), Djebbour (92' Papazoglou)