Arsenal are the first English side to progress to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, but Chelsea still have work to do following their defeat in Germany.
After both Manchester clubs failed to qualify from their respective groups on Tuesday night, it was the turn of the capital contenders 24 hours later. The Gunners, who had to overcome Udinese in a playoff to get even this far, didn’t disappoint at the Emirates Stadium as a Robin van Persie brace was enough to sink Borussia Dortmund 2-1.
This was enough to ensure progress to the second round as Group F winners, which means they are sure to avoid the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the last sixteen. Considering they were written off by many earlier this season, it is little surprise that Arsene Wenger spoke of his satisfaction at such an achievement after the game.
“We were in a difficult group and I am very happy to see where we have come from,” said the French tactician. “When we drew Udinese in the qualifier, you couldn’t bet exactly that we would go through like we have done so overall I am happy. We came through a very difficult period because we were united and we worked hard together.”
Chelsea, meanwhile, have made life difficult for themselves after failing to hold onto a lead at Bayer Leverkusen. Didier Drogba fired the Blues ahead in the early stages of the second half at the BayArena, only for substitute Eren Derdiyok to level before Manuel Friedrich piled the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas with an injury time winner.
The Portuguese coach, who saw his side defeated at home to Liverpool on Sunday, must now lift the spirits of his players ahead of their visit of Valencia next month. A home win or a goalless draw will guaranteed the Stamford Bridge club of a place in the next stage of the competition, whilst anything less would surely increase the speculation over the future of the former Porto boss.
“The responsibility is mine and it’s my task now to inspire and motivate them,” Villas-Boas said. “It’s in our hands to qualify. It’s a game at Stamford Bridge and we expect to do our job. That’s our responsibility and we don’t want to let the fans down.”
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