november 21, 2012 • 06:15 PM
• last update 06:28 PM
Roundup: Arsenal, Schalke advance to knockout stage
Arsenal's German striker Lukas Podolski celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group B football match against Montpellier at the Emirates Stadium, North London, England, on November 21, 2012.
Foto: Getty Images
Jack Wilshere's first goal in two years and a sumptuous volley by Lukas Podolski earned Arsenal a 2-0 win over Montpellier in the Champions League on Wednesday, clinching the English team's passage to the knockout stage for the 13th straight year.
After a poor first half, Wilshere brought Emirates Stadium to life in the 49th minute by flicking home a deft finish from Olivier Giroud's nod-down.
Podolski gave winless Montpellier too much to do by rifling in a sensational 63rd-minute volley after exchanging a one-two with Giroud, a former player of the French team.
Assured of a top-two finish, Arsenal will go into its last Group B game — at Olympiakos — a point behind leader Schalke. Both sides will want to finish top to secure what would likely be an easier last-16 match.
Montpellier is guaranteed to finish bottom in its first season in Europe's top club competition.
Podolski's strike was good enough to grace any occasion, the Germany forward meeting Giroud's floated pass with a powerful strike that flew past goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren from the edge of the area.
But it will be Wilshere's goal — his first since a 4-2 victory over Aston Villa in the English Premier League in November 2010 — that will arguably delight Arsenal fans more.
The young England midfielder has recently returned from a long spell out with myriad injuries and is seen as vital to Arsenal's chances of winning a first piece of silverware since 2005.
He starred here with his drive and energy, and his well-taken goal capped an impressive display in which he played 90 minutes for the first time since his long-awaited comeback.
Arsenal's record in the Champions League — advancing from the group every year since 2000 — is something Arsene Wenger uses against critics who slate him for the team's lack of trophies.
The Gunners were slow to get going against Montpellier, Laurent Koscielny powering a header against the bar in the 11th minute and Podolski dragging a low shot wide with their best chances.
The cutting edge came in the second half, allowing Arsenal a stroll to the final whistle.
Schalke left it late to secure a 1-0 win over Olympiakos on Wednesday to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Christian Fuchs settled the issue with 13 minutes remaining when he looked up and let fly from 30 meters (yards) to steer the ball inside the post. It was the Austrian defender's first Champions League goal.
Julian Draxler could have made sure of the win shortly afterward only to be denied by Olympiakos' Northern Irish goalkeeper, Roy Carroll.
Arsenal beat Montpellier 2-0 in the other Group B game to also ensure progression.
With one game remaining, Schalke has 11 points and Arsenal 10. Olympiakos is four further back and the French side is bottom with one point.
Schalke dominated possession and had 27 attempts on goal, compared to the visitors' six.
Lewis Holtby almost opened the scoring when his 25-meter effort crashed off the crossbar in the 10th minute. Djamel Abdoun wasted Olympiakos' best chance at the other end, the Algerian firing over from a promising position.
Thereafter it was almost all Schalke, with Carroll stretching well to reach Fuchs' free kick, Roman Neustaedter was blocked, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar flashed a shot narrowly wide after Jefferson Farfan's initial effort had been blocked. Draxler then fired wide of the same post.
Schalke pushed even more men forward in the second half, but inspirational defending from Jose Holebas blocked Farfan and then Jermaine Jones from the follow-up.
Paulo Machado's rare attempt at the other end gave the visitors a lift, and former Olympiakos defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos' interception was crucial with Rafik Djebbour lurking behind.
Just when Schalke appeared under pressure, however, Fuchs made the breakthrough with his side's 20th attempt on goal.
FC Porto beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday to set up a decider with Paris Saint-Germain in two weeks' time for the top spot in Group A.
Group leader Porto, undefeated so far, has 13 points to 12 for the second-place French club. They meet in Paris for the last group game on Dec. 4 to determine the top-seeded team in the draw for the tournament's knockout stage.
Lucho Gonzalez, unmarked in the Dinamo area, hit a left-foot shot for his second goal in the tournament after 20 minutes. Portugal's Joao Moutinho fired in a 67th-minute free kick, and Silvestre Varela sealed the victory five minutes from the end.
Porto, a two-time European champion which hasn't missed the knockout round since the 2005-06 season, was untroubled in a mostly uneventful encounter with Dinamo, which extended its winless streak in the tournament to 11 games.
Dinamo, looking for its first goal and first points in the tournament this season, almost scored with the first shot of the game as Sammir's 13th-minute effort bounced back off Helton's far post. Just before halftime Ivan Peko and Domagoj Vida also came close.
But Porto was always the likely winner and in the final stages Dinamo goalkeeper Ivan Kevala prevented a bigger loss by denying Varela and Jackson Martinez.