By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Alexis Sanchez scored twice and Mesut Ozil headed the other goal as never-say-die Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 on Tuesday and kept alive their hopes of reaching the Champions League last 16 for a 16th straight season.
The Gunners, whose chances of advancing looked remote after defeats by Dinamo, Olympiakos Piraeus and Bayern Munich in their opening four matches, were given a huge helping hand by Bayern Munich who thrashed the Greeks 4-0 in the other Group F match.
Those results mean that Bayern are through to the knockout round and Arsenal will join them if they beat Olympiakos by two clear goals in Greece on Dec. 9.
Bayern have 12 points, Olympiakos have nine, Arsenal are on six and Dinamo have three. If Olympiakos gain at least a point against Arsenal they will go through instead of the London side while Dinamo are already eliminated and will finish bottom.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters he was pleased his side now had their fate back in their hands.
“It was important we did not concede the first goal because they (Dinamo) were quite dangerous going forward.
“We had to come out of the game tonight with a chance to qualify — we needed to do the job and Bayern needed to do the job and it happened — and now I believe we can do it.
“We have to go there (Olympiakos) and win, and if we are winning 1-0, then we can win 2-0.”
Dinamo coach Zoran Mamic agreed, telling reporters: “I think they can go through, they have more quality than Olympiakos and are a better team and I think they will reach the next stage.”
There was nervous apprehension from the home fans on a chilly night but that eased as Arsenal weathered early pressure before taking control with excellent quick-passing football.
Ozil, Sanchez and Santi Cazorla were dominant in midfield and the Germany playmaker made the breakthrough when he scored with a stooped header after Sanchez had run more than 50 metres with the ball as Arsenal broke on the counter.
Sanchez scored the second after poor defending by Leonardo Sigali, whose weak clearance inside his area was intercepted by Nacho Monreal who set up his Chilean team mate for a tap-in.
The second half followed much the same pattern and, although Dinamo weaved some nice moves in midfield, they hardly created a chance to trouble Arsenal keeper Petr Cech.
Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and the excellent Joel Campbell kept Eduardo busy in the visitors’ goal, with Sanchez netting the third goal by rounding the keeper, leaving Arsenal believing they can complete the job of qualifying in two weeks’ time.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)