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3 things we learned from Arsenal's 3-0 win over Olympiacos

Arsenal are in the Champions League knockout stages for a 16th consecutive season.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Arsenal pulled off an excellent 3-0 victory away at Olympiacos on Wednesday, leapfrogging the Greek champions in their Champions League group and qualifying for the knockout stages at the last opportunity. The Gunners headed into the match needing to score at least twice, yet turned in an impressively confident display to beat their tenacious hosts in an intimidating Athenian atmosphere.

That's despite the fact Olympiacos made a good start to the match, startling Arsenal with their attacking intent. They had the first shot on goal within a couple of minutes, but Felipe Pardo's effort fizzed wide. They remained a constant counter-attacking threat throughout the opening exchanges and went close again after 20 minutes when Sebá's shot sailed over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.

It took until midway through the first half before Arsenal finally got a hold on things. They went agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock 25 minutes in, but Mathieu Flamini's shot was deflected onto the crossbar by Olympiacos midfielder Luka Milivojević.

The Gunners had more luck within five minutes, when a goalkeeping error from Roberto allowed them to take the lead. He should've kept out an Olivier Giroud header at the near post, but instead allowed it to creep inside the back of the net. Arsenal had a lifeline, but they still needed to score at least another goal to progress.

Arsenal were given a big scare shortly before halftime, but Laurent Koscielny made an excellent intervention on a low cross by Brown Ideye. The Frenchman had run the risk of turning the ball into his own goal, but his perfect timing allowed him to steer it to safety instead.

The visitors couldn't allow the halftime break to disrupt their momentum, and it certainly didn't. Within five minutes they'd scored an all-important second, when some excellent hold-up play by Joel Campbell culminated in a fine through-ball for Giroud, who slotted home. Suddenly it was Olympiacos chasing the game, and Arsenal who had an advantage to protect.

Olympiacos attacking midfielder Kostas Fortounis found a pocket of space on the edge of the area just short of the hour, though his curling effort was tipped over by a diving Petr Čech. The Greeks had an even better chance within minutes, but Per Mertesacker made a crucial defensive intervention to thwart Brown Ideye from point-blank range.

It seemed a dramatic finale was in the offing until a costly error by Olympiacos defender Omar Elabdellaoui with 25 minutes left. His handball in the area gifted Giroud the chance to step up and seal his hat trick, and the Frenchman needed no second invitation. It meant the Greeks needed to score thrice without reply to progress, though it really rendered the tie all but over.

Olympiacos: Roberto; Masuaku, Siovas, da Costa, Elabdellaoui; Milivojević, Kasami (Domínguez 72'); Sebá (Hernâni 77'), Fortounis, Pardo (Finnbogason 86'); Ideye.

Goals: None.

Arsenal: Čech; Monreal, Koscienly, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Ramsey, Flamini; Walcott (Gibbs 72'), Özil, Campbell (Oxlade-Chamberlain 90+1'); Giroud (Chambers 90+2').

Goals: Giroud (29', 49', 67').

3 Things

1. Cometh the hour, cometh the Giroud

Giroud's been subject to plenty of stick through his Arsenal career, much of it warranted. However, few could deny the Frenchman has been impressive so far this season, with his crucial hat trick in this match bringing his tally up to 16 in all competitions. His movement and positioning in this match was excellent, and his hold-up play vital in relieving pressure on the Gunners' defense. With Arsenal's current shortage of center forwards, Arsène Wenger will be desperate for him to stay fit.

2. There may be life without Alexis Sánchez for Arsenal

The recent injury to Alexis Sánchez, combined with their pretty poor Premier League form, has seen Arsenal's title challenge take a hit. But this match showed that there may be life without their star attacker, courtesy of a string of impressive performances from his teammates. Mesut Özil once again played a pivotal role in picking his opponents' defensive lock, while Campbell continued to take advantage of his unlikely opportunity in the Arsenal first team with a skillful and inventive performance out on the right. Of course, this wasn't Olympiacos' best defensive performance, but it's sure to give the Gunners heart in Sánchez's absence.

3. Olympiacos will be ruing their missed chances

Olympiacos made a good start to this match, and had a smattering of good opportunities to score. Coach Marco Silva seemed to get his gameplan just right, with his side's tricky wingers isolating Arsenal's defensively suspect fullbacks several times in the opening exchanges. However, they paid a heavy price for their wasteful finishing, and eventually allowed Arsenal to dominate the game. The scoreline suggests the Gunners had a comfortable evening, but had the Greeks taken one or two of their chances, things could have turned out differently.