Arsenal sneak thru’
Arsenal sneaked into the last 16 of the Champions League by the narrowest of margins while Napoli dramatically missed out as the group stage concluded on Wednesday evening.
Napoli beat Arsenal 2-0 in their final game in Group F with second-half goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon as the Gunners finished with 10 men following the sending-off of Mikel Arteta.
Meanwhile, last season’s beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund won too, downing 10-men Marseille 2-1 in France thanks to a late strike from Kevin Grosskreutz after Souleymane Diawara had cancelled out Robert Lewandowski’s opener.
That ensured a three-way tie atop the section, with Dortmund, Arsenal and Napoli all finishing on 12 points, and the German side progressed as group winners thanks to their better head-to-head record.
Arsenal, meanwhile, qualified for the knockout stages for the 14th year running, but one more Napoli goal would have taken the Italians through at their expense.
Instead, Napoli become the first team to finish third with 12 points in a Champions League group and the first to be eliminated with such a tally since 1997.
Then, Paris Saint-Germain failed to progress with the same number of points at a time when only the group winners were guaranteed to go through.
Meanwhile, Marseille, who had Dimitri Payet sent off in the first half, became the first French side to finish a Champions League campaign without registering a single point.
In stark contrast to Napoli’s pain, Zenit St Petersburg finished as runners-up in Group G, becoming the first side to progress to the last 16 despite collecting just six points.
The Russians took the lead away to Austria Vienna through Aleksandr Kerzhakov only to eventually lose 4-1, Philipp Hosiner scoring twice for the hosts with Tomas Jun and substitute Roman Kienast also on target.
Two-time European champions Porto would have gone through at Zenit’s expense had they won away to group winners Atletico Madrid, but they went down 2-0 in the Spanish capital as Raul Garcia and Diego Costa scored for the hosts.