Champions League: Chelsea and Arsenal make it through to last 16
(CNN)It was supposed to be a week when England was caught up in a football crisis — in the end it never materialized.
England will have three representatives in the last 16 of the Champions League after Chelsea and Arsenal eased through to the knockout phase.
Manchester United might have fluffed their lines Tuesday but the two London clubs will be in Monday’s draw along with Manchester City, which finished top of its group.
Spain is the only other country which has three clubs also through to the next stage while Germany and Italy have two.
Chelsea, which has endured a miserable season in the Premier League, claimed a 2-0 win over Porto at Stamford Bridge to finish top of Group G.
Arsenal, which needed to win by any scoreline except 1-0 or 2-1, to qualify, defeated Olympiacos 3-0 in Greece courtesy of Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick.
It means Arsenal finishes in second place in Group F, behind Bayern Munich, which defeated Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 in Croatia.
Chelsea’s place in the last-16 had been in doubt going into the final group game against Porto.
A year ago, the situation could scarcely have been so different.
Chelsea cruised through its qualification group without defeat and into the last-16 while on their way to the Premier League title.
Who’s through to the last 16?
Group winners: Real Madrid, Wolfsburg, Atleico Madrid, Man City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Zenit
Group runners-up: PSG, PSV, Benfica, Juventus, Roma, Arsenal, Dynamo Kiev, Gent.
Now, 12 months later, it found themselves needing to gain at least a point from its final game to qualify for the knockout phase.
Last Saturday it suffered the ignominy of losing at home to minnow Bournemouth — a result which left it in 14th position.
Such is Chelsea’s demise this season that it is 17 points behind Premier League leader, Leicester City, which it plays on Monday.
Last season, Chelsea lost just three times in the Premier League — this year it has already been defeated on eight occasions.
In the Champions League, it has found it rather more palatable.
While a defeat in Portugal against Porto was disappointing, there was never much doubt Chelsea would qualify after taking the lead in the 12th minute.
A lovely through ball by Eden Hazard released Diego Costa and when his shot was saved, the rebound hit the unfortunate Ivan Marcano and rebounded into the goal.
The home side wrapped up the victory in the second half, Willian finishing off a fine move with a thunderous finish past Iker Casillas, the Porto goalkeeper.
The defeat, coupled with Dynamo Kiev’s 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, means Porto will play in the Europa League with the Ukrainian side progressing instead.
“We are not lucky in the Premier League,” Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, told BT Sport.
“Luck is part of the game. In the Premier League every detail goes against us and it was a little attack to the players’ confidence. It was an important result for the players and the clubs.”
Arsenal, fresh from its 3-1 win over Sunderland in the Premier League at the weekend, made light work of its Greek opponent in Athens.
Giroud, who gave Arsenal the lead in the first half, added a second just after the interval.
The Frenchman then completed his hat-trick, his first for the club, from the penalty spot to seal the win.
It completed a remarkable comeback for Arsenal which lost its first two games of the group stage and was beaten 5-0 in Munich.
“Nine times out of 10 you are out,” Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, told BT of his side’s poor start to the competition.
“We needed something special to come back like we did and tonight we needed a complete team performance. This team really is a team and they showed it again.”
No good for Neville
Gary Neville’s first game in charge of Valencia ended in defeat after his side was beaten 2-0 by Lyon.
The result means Neville’s team will play in the Europa League with Belgian side Gent joining Zenit St Petersburg in the next round of the Champions League.
That’s because Gent overcame the Russian side 2-1 in Belgium with goals from Laurent Depoitre and Danijel Milicevic.
Best of the rest
Lionel Messi was on target as Barcelona drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen — a result which knocked the German side out of the competition.
That’s because Roma secured second spot in Group E with a goalless draw against Bate Borisov.