By Mike Collett
Arsenal brushed Olympique Marseille aside 2-0 on Tuesday to make it four Champions League wins out of five but they are still not certain of qualifying for the knockout stage with one round of Group F matches left to play.
Two goals from Jack Wilshere, the first after 30 seconds, sealed the points for Arsenal who head the group with 12 points followed by Borussia Dortmund, who beat Napoli 3-1 to leave both sides on nine. Marseille have none after five straight losses.
Arsenal’s last match in the group is away to Napoli while Dortmund visit Marseille meaning Arsenal, Dortmund and Napoli could all finish with 12 points in which case results between the three would decide who advances to the last 16.
Arsenal were vastly superior to a Marseille team already out of contention with coach Elie Baup fielding a weakened side with key players rested for their French League exploits.
Wilshere put Arsenal ahead with a clever curler and added a second in the 65th minute after a superb move with the final pass exquisitely played by Mesut Ozil who missed a first-half penalty.
After taking such an early lead against a young and inexperienced Marseille team, Arsenal took the game to their opponents playing with a confident swagger that should have produced more goals in a largely one-sided first half.
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey should have doubled their lead after another fine flowing move orchestrated by Wilshere but he fired straight at goalkeeper Steve Mandanda then Ozul wasted a golden opportunity with a poor spot kick after 38 minutes.
It was debatable whether Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz called the decision correctly as Nicolas N’Koulou’s foul on Ramsey appeared to be just outside the area.
Ozul though, off a three-step run up, shot low and weakly to Mandanda’s right and the keeper saved comfortably.
Marseille gradually played their way back into the game and Baup increased his attacking options with half an hour to play with the introduction of France international Mathieu Valbuena and impressive young striker Florian Thauvin in place of midfielders Jordan Ayew and Giannelli Imbula.
But, despite having more of the play, Marseille went further behind when Wilshere made it 2-0 after being left unmarked with only Mandanda to beat.
The group will be decided when the sixth and final matches are played on December 11.
Meanwhile, in Basel Mohamed Salah scored a breakaway goal in the 87th minute as Basel beat Chelsea 1-0 to complete an unlikely Champions League double over the Londoners on Tuesday.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech produced a string of outstanding saves in the first half to keep the dominant Swiss team at bay.
Basel, who beat Chelsea 2-1 away earlier in the campaign, then struck the winner when Egyptian Salah broke down the left before sliding the ball past Cech into the corner of the net.
Leaders Chelsea have nine points from five games in Group E and have still qualified for the knockout stages.
Basel are second on eight points while Schalke 04 are third on seven points after drawing 0-0 at bottom club Steaua Bucharest.
“It was a bad performance that deserved a defeat,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports television. “I didn’t like anything we did from the very first minute.
“We made a defensive mistake immediately and the team I think only had a bit of control in the second half. I felt the players were tired and paid the price for the recent international break.”
Cech kept Chelsea in the game in the opening period while opposite number Yann Sommer did not have a single shot to warm him up on a freezing night.
The visiting keeper did well to keep the ball out in the third minute when Marco Streller got a touch to Valentin Stocker’s inswinging free kick and he was tested again by a low, deflected Fabian Frei effort in the 13th.
Cech then tipped over a powerful effort from Salah before producing a superb stop to deny the lively Egyptian.
The Czech keeper was going the wrong way and his sight was blocked by defenders but he still managed to raise his arm to turn the ball away at the last minute.
Chelsea had another let-off when John Obi Mikel cleared off the line from an inswinging corner and they also survived a penalty appeal when the ball struck Frank Lampard’s outstretched arm.
The Londoners were below par throughout and it came as no surprise when Salah struck late on.
In Dortmund, Borussia went 1-0 up with a 10th minute penalty, Marco Reus putting the spot kick away after Robert Lewandowski was fouled following a corner. Jakub Blaszczykowski doubled the home side’s lead on the hour.
Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back for Napoli five minutes after coming on as a substitute from a fine pass by Gonzalo Higuain but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured the three points for Dortmund with a goal 12 minutes from time.
Kaka put Milan ahead in Glasgow with the simplest of close-range headers from a corner and Milan grabbed their second via Cristian Zapata Helped by another static display from the Celtic defence shortly after halftime.
Mario Balotelli added a third on the hour to end Celtic’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages.
Barcelona suffered an early shock in Amsterdam after a goal by Ajax midfielder Thulani Serero. The Spanish side’s defence allowed a cross from Ricardo van Rhijn to reach the South Africa international who netted from close range.
The surprises continued when Danny Hoesen added a second for the hosts just before halftime but Xavi pulled one back for the 2009 and 2011 European champions from the penalty spot four minutes after the break.
Ajax’s Veltman was sent off for a foul on Neymar that led to the spot kick and Barca began to impose themselves on the 10-man home side, but Ajax held on for the win.
“In the first half we didnt have a good attitude. At an individual level we were not as good as Ajax,” said Martino.
Atletico Madrid dropped their first points of this season’s competition in the 1-1 draw in St Petersburg. Adrian Lopez put the group winners ahead shortly after halftime before a Toby Alderweireld own goal secured a point for the Russian side.
Atletico lead Group G with 13 points while Zenit have six, one more than Porto.
Austria Vienna, with only one point from four games, went ahead against the run of play at Porto through Roman Kienast in the 11th minute – their first goal in this season’s group stage.
The Portuguese side equalised three minutes after the break through Jackson Martinez. Porto travel to Madrid for their final game, leaving Zenit in pole position for the runners-up spot.