Arsenal, Dortmund on the verge as Chelsea qualify

Arsenal, Dortmund on the verge as Chelsea qualify

Arsenal, Dortmund on the verge as Chelsea qualify

Arsenal fans can breathe relief. Results went their way last night. The Group of Death is rising from its coma. A 3-1 defeat of SSC Napoli by Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion, coupled with the Gunners 2-0 victory over Marseille, means that the Partenopei have to defeat the Gunners by three goals or more in Naples to qualify.

Tough Napoleon task for Rafael Benitez Maudes.  

Jack Wilshere was the lad that ensured the North Londoners climbed the Group F beanstalk at the Emirates, his two goals putting to rest any lingering doubts about progression. His first, after only 29 seconds, was sublime; bending a left-foot shot past keeper Steve Mandanda, his second culminating good team play that opened up a static Les Phoceens defense.

Mesut Ozil could even afford to see his somewhat lethargic penalty saved by Mandanda. It goes to show that there was going to be no let down in Arsene Wenger’s quest for second phase against a weakened Marseille side, who had Mandanda to thank for stopping what would have been a rout.

It’s Napoli who stand on the brink of playing in the Europa League. Three goals by Marco Reus (penalty), Jakub Blaszczykowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the Signal Iduna Park rendered Lorenzo Insigne’s goal a consolation. That loss by two goals has ensured a mountain to climb for Benitez’s side when they meet Arsenal at the Stadio San Paolo.

Chelsea. Football is round, not fair. Jose Mourinho’s expensively assembled squad did indeed qualify for the knockout phase. However, it was a drab performance by Roman Abramovich’s prized toy. FC Basel not only did a group stage double on the Blues, but the Stamford Bridge outfit did not muster a shot on target, and only two shots in 90 minutes.

Their impotence in attack was dumbfounding.

 Egyptian Mohamed Salah’s goal for Basel in the 87th minute at the St. Jakob Park, coupled with Schalke’s 0-0 draw at Steaua Bucharest, means the Blues cannot fail to progress from Group E and leaves a straight fight between Schalke and Basel for the other qualifying spot when the two sides meet in Germany.

5 teams have so far qualified for the second phase, with Mourinho’s charges joining Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Atletico Madrid. Barcelona lost 2-1 away to Ajax Amsterdam, thus ensuring Ajax and AC Milan, who defeated Celtic 3-0 at Celtic Park, will battle for the other Group H spot when they face off at the San Siro.

 In Group G, FC Porto’s failure to defeat bottom placed Austria Vienna in a 1-1 draw at the Estadio do Dragao, has left the Portuguese side with a herculean task, what with facing in-form side Atletico Madrid in Spain in the last group fixture. That leaves Zenit St. Petersburg, who are on 5 points, one behind Porto, as the favorites to qualify after last night’s 1-1 home draw with Madrid, when the Russians face Vienna away.

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