Arsenal’s hat-trick hero Olivier Giroud lauded his side’s “fantastic” performance as Arsene Wenger’s men completed a remarkable Champions League escape with a 3-0 win over Olympiacos.
Coming into Wednesday’s meeting in Greece, Arsenal knew a win by anything other than 1-0 or 2-1 would see them leapfrog their hosts and qualify as runners-up from Group F.
Having lost three of their first four group games, Arsenal appeared to be heading out of the competition but a 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb on matchday five kept their hopes alive.
And Giroud’s hat-trick in Greece – his first for Arsenal – completed the job as the Gunners progressed to the last 16 due to their superior head-to-head record over their opponents.
“It’s fantastic for me and for the team,” Giroud told BT Sport. “We’re really pleased to go through.
“It’s nice to go through the group stage because we were not in a good position and finally we’ve done it and we’re very pleased for our fans and the club and we feel relieved tonight.
“In the Champions League it’s one level up and we need to be focused as a unit, together, with good cohesion, defending well and we finished well tonight.
“It’s nice for us. It was not so easy tonight in this stadium in this atmosphere and we’re really pleased to have done it now.
“We want to go as far as we can. The target is maybe to reach the quarter-finals, it’s my fourth year here and I’ve never played a quarter-final so hopefully.
“But we’ll have a good rest and open the new page of the Champions League in February.”
Per Mertesacker added: “It was last-gasp to go through for us. We took our chance and we took it seriously tonight and we deserved it. We played great football up front and Olivier executed well tonight.
“Everyone is really pleased we went through and we deserved it. We kept patience and that was a last-gasp thing tonight.”