Olympiakos Piraeus went from
ecstasy to utter despair after their 3-1 win over Arsenal looked
to be sending them into the Champions League last 16 only for
Olympique Marseille to pip the Greeks at the death.
Marseille's two late goals in a 3-2 victory at Borussia
Dortmund in the other final Group F game meant Didier Deschamps'
team qualified for February's first knockout round and
Olympiakos had to settle for third place and the Europa League.
The Greeks ended the group stage on nine points, just one
behind the French. Arsenal had secured top spot and progression
before Tuesday's game.
"We're out of the Champions League but we're proud of the
way we played today," said Olympiakos coach Ernesto Valverde.
The Spaniard, as well as visiting manager Arsene Wenger,
identified Olympiakos' first group game which ended in a 1-0
home defeat by Marseille as the main reason the Greeks failed to
clinch a rare qualification to the knockout stage.
Olympiakos had not played a competitive game before facing
the French side in September because the Greek league had not
started following legal rows.
"Our first defeat at home to Marseille cost us a lot," said
Valverde. "Football is about doing the right things at the right
"Despite losing our first two games, we managed to push for
qualification right up to the last game, so that's a success for
us. Now we'll see how far we can go in the Europa League."
After a bright opening by both sides, Olympiakos took the
lead in the 16th minute when the under-strength Arsenal defence
failed to cut out a through ball from David Fuster and Rafik
Djebbour latched on to the pass to round Lukasz Fabianski and
Fabianski was injured a few minutes later in a collision
with Djebbour and Vito Mannone took over in goal but was soon
picking the ball out of the net after his failed clearance in
the 36th minute landed at the feet of Fuster, whose weak shot
trickled over the line.
Arsenal reduced the arrears in the second half when Marouane
Chamakh chested the ball down for Yossi Benayoun to fire in a
volley in the 57th minute.
The weakened Londoners were unable to find a second goal
against the injury-ravaged Greeks and Olympiakos clinched a
third in the 89th minute when Francois Modesto scrambled home
from a corner.
It seemed like the Greeks were going through until news came
from Dortmund, leaving Olympiakos players shaking their heads in
a suddenly quiet stadium.
They will now have to settle for a place in the Europa
League last 32 with the draw due on December 16.
"I thought overall Olympiakos deserved to win the game but,
unfortunately for them, it's not enough because they will not
qualify for the Champions League. Marseille made a super
result," Arsenal manager Wenger told reporters.
"They missed the first game at home against Marseille and
it's very difficult to get that back. Olympiakos deserved a
better place. They paid a heavy price for not starting the
championship before their first game.
"Offensively and defensively, we were not convincing
tonight. It was a fantastic experience [for the younger
players]. They realise the intensity you need at this level. We
missed a bit of maturity in midfield."
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