FULL TIME: Olympiakos 2-1 Arsenal
And that's that, both for the match, and for Arsenal's hopes of finishing first in the group. Still, they've qualified for the second round, which is more than champions Manchester City can say, and that's to say nothing of what might happen to reigning European champs Chelsea tomorrow night. On the other hand, it'll be Arsenal v Barcelona in the next round. That's how it usually works, isn't it?
90 min +2: Chamakh is booked for a deliberate handball on the halfway line. A sorry end to a very decent performance for the striker.
90 min +1: Nothing happens in the first added minute, and yet here's me writing this.
90 min: There will be two added minutes of this.
88 min: A sharp turn by Diakite down the right, and he's suddenly in space on the right-hand edge of the Arsenal box. He could take a belt at goal, but pulls the ball back for Ibagaza instead, and there goes that momentum. "A Tunnock tea cake is the Glaswegian equivalent to a Parisian macaroon," writes Nigel Moore, who is either a poet or a marketing executive for Tunnocks. Perhaps he's the guy with the white moustache.
86 min: Nothing's quite coming off for Arsenal, who are coming on strong in these late exchanges. Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain take turns to showcase their ballet skills down the middle, but performance dance is never enough, and the lads are clattered by a couple of robust but legal challenges before they can break into the area.
84 min: The debutant Meade is replaced by 18-year-old defender Martin Angha. This is the modern world, time's moving on whether you like it or not.
83 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain's been very quiet. Until now. He dances down the right, but his cutback is cut out. He's soon coming back at Olympiacos, though, bustling into the area down the inside-right, his chip across the face of goal only just eluding Chamakh.
82 min: Djebbour is replaced by Ibagaza.
80 min: ...nothing happens.
79 min: Arsenal weren't particularly impressive in the first half, but have been thoroughly poor in the second. Arshavin tries to get things moving for his team by scuttling in from the right and blootering an effort goalwards. It's deflected out for a corner. From which...
76 min: Arsenal look beaten. Djebbour dances along the front of the Arsenal area, from left to the edge of the D, draws all the defenders, then pokes a ball into space created in the right-hand side of the area. Unfortunately for him, none of his team-mates are rushing in. "The guy with moustache in the Tunnocks film is clearly middle management at least," suggests Harry Tuttle. "He's just whipped a coat on to get in the video. It'd be good practice to issue a politely-worded written reminder of his legal obligation to the food health and safety regulations of the Food Standards Agency, but no fine." I suppose moustache nets are quite hard to source, so they can't come down on him too hard.
GOAL!!! Olympiacos 2-1 Arsenal (Mitroglou 73)
No, no respite for Arsenal. Mitroglou, his back to goal, picks up possession on the left-hand corner of the Arsenal box. He takes a tap inside, turns, then wallops a magical curler into the bottom right. That's a magnificent finish, Szczesny had no chance whatsoever. Arsenal's chances of top spot look very, very slim indeed.
72 min: Some respite for Arsenal? The dangerous Abdoun is replaced by Mitroglou.
70 min: Arsenal's full backs are all over the show here. Greco diddles down the right past a static Meade. He whips a cross to the far post, where Djebbour sashays past a sleeping Jenkinson. He should score, but guides his header wide left from close range. Lucky Arsenal.
66 min: Squillaci is booked for bringing down Abdoun, who was about to break clear down the inside-left channel. Vermaelen was in the general vicinity, but there was no guarantee he was getting across, and the referee could easily have flashed red there if he was in the mood. Luckily for Arsenal, it's just a booking, and the resulting free kick is a complete non-event.
GOAL!!! Olympiacos 1-1 Arsenal (Maniatis 64)
Nope, scrub all that, Arsenal are no longer in possession of top spot. Paulo Machado sends a weak header towards the top-right corner. Szczesny guides it round the post - or so it seems. Anyway, it's a corner from the right. And from it, there's a scramble, the ball rebounding off Ramsey's chest and into the path of Maniatis at the right-hand post. The Olympiacos midfielder makes no mistake, forcing the ball into the net. Szczesny is booked for losing a philosophical debate with the referee, claiming he hadn't touched the initial Paulo Machado effort which led to the corner.
63 min: Arsenal are back in possession of top spot! Emanuel Herrera has equalised for Montpellier!
62 min: Arsenal are no longer in possession of top spot, sad to say. Benedikt Howedes has given Schalke the lead at Montpellier.
61 min: Arsenal stream forward, Chamakh and Gervinho exchanging passes before sliding the ball out right to Arshavin, who makes for the area then pelts the ball towards the top-right corner. His effort is parried by
Mark E Smith from The Fall Carroll, and then gathered.
60 min: Fejsa is replaced by Fuster.
59 min: Abdoun, who has been excellent, spins through 360 degrees on the edge of the Arsenal area, to the left of the D, and flicks a delicious ball down the channel to release Djebbour. The striker hoicks lamely into the side netting from close range.
57 min: Torossidis threatens to break down the left, but Jenkinson ushers the ball out of play for a goal kick. There's a lot of noise coming down from the stands, but little else of note to report. "A few seasons ago there was briefly talk that David Beckham might join Celtic," recalls Peter Edwards. "Many SPL players reside in the environs of Uddingston, so when quizzed by the media on the likelihood of such a transfer, then manager Gordon Strachan wryly observed: 'Yes, I can see Posh Spice and her entourage enjoying a tea cake in Tunnock's Tea Rooms'."
54 min: Coquelin is booked for an agricultural challenge on Greco.
53 min: Arsenal break at speed down the right. The generally excellent Chamakh tears down the right and curls a cross at pace onto the forehead of Arshavin, coming in from the left. Arshavin can't keep his header down, but that was a pretty move.
52 min: Squillaci is lucky to escape a booking after pushing Greco in the coupon. The Olympiakos midfielder rolls around for a bit, then gets up. All the action, as it unfolds.
51 min: 'Fingers' Fejsa is booked for getting all hands on with Gervinho. He can have no complaints, as the Arsenal man was bombing towards the business end of the pitch with extreme prejudice.
50 min: Ramsey, to the right of the centre circle, lifts a free kick into the box, where Chamakh guides a header towards the bottom corner. Carroll is behind it all the way. Still, let's take the excitement when and where we can.
47 min: A couple of fancy touches for Arshavin down the left, but they lead to naught. Plenty of time to go. "For hard-hitting journalism on the topic of Rich Tea biscuits, I'd suggest you consult The Guardian," quips Cecil Philpot, who I think might be trying to get me sacked. Or at least slapped about a bit by the G2 toughs.
And we're off again!
Arsenal swop the goalscorer Rosicky for Arshavin. Then the ball's a-rollin' again. "Arsenal just played 45 with Squillaci and didn't concede a goal," stutters Michael Bertin, blinking as he stares agog into the new terrain. "That is a sure sign that they have turned a corner. Or that the apocalypse is at hand."
This should keep at least one-third of our readership happy. This one's for you, Simon McMahon.
In fact, it's possible you put this up, isn't it. (Question for anyone from the Food Standards Agency reading this report: should the guy pictured between 35 and 59 seconds - I'm guessing it's Mr Tunnock - have a net over his moustache? It's a voluminous moustache!)
Half-time: Olympiakos 0-1 Arsenal
And that's that for the half. No goals between Montpellier and Schalke, so as things stand, Arsenal will top the group and AVOID BARCELONA.
42 min: Maniatis finds some space down the right, where the debutant Meade is in danger of being over-run. This time it matters not that Olympiakos had failed to get men into the box, because the resulting cross isn't up to anything. "Get thee, Arsene, to the Tunnocks factory in Uddingston," writes patriotic South Lanarkshire bakery fan Simon McMahon, one of this report's Readership Trio. "It's the daddy of them all. Trophies will follow. Or at the very least a regular supply of Tea Cakes and Caramel Wafers."
39 min: There's nearly an immediate reply, Paulo Machado skedaddling down the right and firing a peachy low cross through the Arsenal box. Again, if the home side had committed men forward, the Gunners were in a whole world of pain, but Squillaci can clear.
GOAL!!! Olympiakos 0-1 Arsenal (Rosicky 37)
This game was in danger of becoming a non-event, but suddenly Gervinho takes matters into his own hands, getting busy down the inside-right channel, reaching the byline, and cutting the ball back for Rosicky, who sidefoots confidently home from the penalty spot. Carroll gets a fingertip to the ball but can't do anything about it. Aaron Ramsey, standing out on the right wing, was hopefully taking notes.
34 min: Fejsa makes good down the left and sails into the area, sending a low shot fizzing straight through the six-yard area and to the right of goal. If any of his team-mates were on the front foot then, Arsenal were in a lot of trouble.
32 min: Nothing going on, so what's the latest in the world of biscuits, according to our favourite news resource Twitter?
There is nothing better then Tea & Rich Tea biscuits ��— Ben MacEntee (@BMacEntee) December 4, 2012
So there you have it. Good old Twitter, eh, taking journalism kicking and screaming into the modern age.
28 min: Rosicky clatters into Fejsa. No card, but a lot of finger wagging.
26 min: Abdoun goes on a wee dance down the middle of the park, his twinkletoes eventually taking him to the right of the D. Instead of shooting, he dinks a ball across to Torossidis, on the opposite edge of the D. The home captain's in space, but his attempt to guide a first-time effort goalwards is high and not so handsome. "I'm on an old biscuit factory in Bermondsey for a bit of avant garde theatre (I know, I know)," writes Gary Naylor. "There's more space here than between Arsenal's central defenders. Maybe Arsene should take his squad to an operational biscuit factory for a day - I suggest that they'd feel a little less fatigued with a little more perspective." Biscuit-related sport satire. We're really scraping the barrel now. Mm? Ah.
24 min: After a slow start, this is developing into quite a free-flowing open game. Abdoun drops a shoulder down the inside-left and cuts into the area, then looks to curl one into the top right. The ball's deflected out for a corner. Djebbour gets his head to the set piece, but not with any real conviction.
23 min: Chamakh looks like Arsenal's best bet today, which isn't something we've always been able to report. He's all over the place, in a good way. Here he's in space down the left once again, but nobody shows for him in the middle and his low, speculative cross is cut out. But this is a decent showing by the Arsenal striker.
20 min: Torossidis, just to the left of goal, rises to nut a header down and goalwards from ten yards. Squillaci is on the line to clear, with Szczesny behind him just in case.
18 min: Chamakh, who has been pretty lively, hares after a long ball down the left, and so nearly rounds the outrushing Carroll on the outside, but the striker's touch is way too clumpish, and the ball is sent flying behind for a goal kick.
17 min: What a miss by Aaron Ramsey. Oxlade-Chamberlain scampers down the right, then delivers a fantastic curling high ball to the far post, where Chamakh rises majestically to cushion a header down towards the penalty spot. The ball sits there invitingly for the onrushing Ramsey, who instead of skelping the ball confidently into the goal, as he should, executes a mid-air sprint, the sort made famous by Wile E Coyote upon finding coaxed over the edge of a cliff by the Road Runner. Sadly there's no xylophone trill to accompany the sight of the ball clanking off Ramsey's riverdancing legs and out of play.
16 min: Paulo Machado finds an extra gear down the right and wings a tasty low cross towards the near post. Vermaelen is on hand to clear in the adroit fashion.
15 min: The official Guardian Peepers are boss-eyed, by the way, and on the end of comedy springs. So, y'know, all usual legal disclaimers apply.
13 min: Coquelin rolls a smart ball down the inside-left channel to release Chamakh. Carroll is out quickly to claim at the striker's feet. Chamakh is flagged for offside anyway, a decision that looked fairly tight when viewed through the official Guardian Peepers.
11 min: This is a wee bit better from both sides. Djebbour screams clear down the left and reaches the byline, fizzing the ball into the six-yard area for Abdoun. But Vermaelen is tracking back, aware of the danger, and intercepts just before Abdoun can latch onto the cross. He pokes behind for a corner, an event which proves to be a total nonsense.
10 min: Under no pressure whatsoever on the edge of his own box, Squillaci heads behind, conceding a corner. The delivery's as bad as this match has been so far, not clearing the first man.
7 min: Now it's Oxlade-Chamberlain's turn to enact That Which Is Best Quietly Ignored. He does this while standing at the right-hand edge of the box, the ball eventually finding its way out of play on the opposite side of the pitch. Seconds before, Gervinho had attempted to release Chamakh into the box down the inside right, and nearly managed it, but the ball clanked between the striker's legs before pinballing towards the Ox for his aforementioned cameo.
5 min: This isn't exciting so far. But then what did anyone expect? Nobody's retaining possession much. Abdoun takes a dig from distance, but let's not embarrass him by going any further with this.
3 min: Diakite launches a long ball down the centre, but Djebbour is caught plenty offside.
And we're off!
Arsenal get the ball rolling, and within 50 seconds they're causing all manner of bother down the inside-left channel, Chamakh and Oxlade-Chamberlain footering around before Gervinho slashes a hopeless snap-effort wide left of the target from the edge of the box. Lively, if not particularly dangerous.
The teams, earlier in, are now very much out! Olympiakos are in their red-and-white shirts, Arsenal in a rum blue-and-different-sort-of-blue number. "When Adrian Chiles suggested that Arsenal have been in decline since Lee Dixon left, Dixon chuckled, but then said completely seriously, 'No, I think there's a bit more to it than that.'," reports Matt Dony. "It almost seemed like a small part of him believed it. Maybe he was the glue that held the successful Arsenal teams together. Maybe that's what they're lacking at the moment. Bring back Dixon!" Fair enough. It's when Igor Stepanovs is recalled fondly that we have to worry.
In the UK, transmission of this game has started on the Independent Television channel. The big news is that Adrian Chiles and his pundit pals Lee Dixon and Gareth Southgate haven't been sent over to Greece, but are sitting in The Matthew Lorenzo's Career Memorial Bunker somewhere in London watching things unfold on telly. Unless they are in Piraeus, and they've rented a windowless basement, in which case it's the farce of Dallas '94 all over again. So, I'm guessing ITV are, like the rest of us paupers here in Medialand, running short on dough. Whether that's to do with the recession or the fact they've clearly spent a bit of cash on their spanking new Christmas idents (which are up far too early in my book) is a moot point. Anyway, they're in the poor house. Po' Chilesy's a-cold! Lee Dixon must be wondering whether he'd have been better moving back home to Manchester with the BBC, even if it would have meant continuing to put up with Alan Shearer.
The teams are in, and here they are...
Roy Carroll's Olympiakos: Carroll, Diakite, Manolas, Contreras, Torosidis, Paulo Machado, Maniatis, Fejsa, Greco, Djebbour, Abdoun. Subs: Megyeri, Ibagaza, Pantelic, Mitroglou, Fetfatzidis, David Fuster, Siovas.
Jernade Meade's Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Meade, Coquelin, Rosicky, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh, Gervinho. Subs: Shea, Arshavin, Angha, Ansah, Hajrovic, Monteiro, Akpom.
It's a gripping denouement to Group B of the 2012/13 Champions League, with much riding on the final night's action!
Arsenal visit Piraeus this evening hoping to round off their first-stage campaign with a victory over Olympiacos. If they manage that, and if Schalke drop points at Montpellier tonight, Arsenal will top their section, and will therefore be assured of avoiding hot favourites Barcelona in the first knockout round. It is on!
That's the Uefa press officer's take on it, anyway. The more level-headed amongst you will have already written off this game as a crashing bore. Arsenal and Schalke are both already through, and while first place is a prize nominally worth having - it would be nice to bodyswerve Lionel Messi, sure - what is it really worth? Would the Gunners rather avoid the chance of drawing Porto or PSG? Malaga or Milan? Valencia or Bayern Munich? Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid? It's not really worth fretting about, is it? So well done, Uefa, another triumph! And to think they're considering pumping another 32 teams into this already hideously distended competition. Christ's sake.
But let's do our little dance, get on the good foot, and join Uefa's jaunty jig. Arsenal have to win tonight if they're to grab top place in the group. They're only a point behind leaders Schalke, but even if the Germans lose in France, a draw won't do; Schalke own Arsenal on the head-to-head, having Swansea'd Arsene Wenger's side 2-0 at the Emirates, then clawed back a two-goal deficit against them at home. It's three points or bust for Arsenal, who must hope Montpellier, already out of Europe completely, rouse themselves to claim a point against Klaas-Jan Huntelaar et al.
So how desperate are Arsenal to prevail tonight? "You don't play Barcelona if you come top," says Wenger. So there you have it. Or perhaps you have it over here instead: they're resting Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, have popped Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski into the garage for a service, and are thinking of giving the likes of Zak Ansah, Elton Monteiro, Chuba Akpom, James Shea and Sead Hajroivc their first-team debuts.
It is on! Except it's not, because Olympiakos have nothing much to play for either, as they're already in the Europa League. But hey, not everything has to be dripping with death-or-glory drama for us to enjoy it, hm? Hm.
Kick off: 7.45pm GMT, 9.45pm EET (local time in Piraeus).
The referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain). A smattering of big matches for the Spaniard, the pick of the bunch probably being Argentina's 2-1 win over Czech Republic in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup final, Sergio Aguero on the scoresheet that day. Whether his presence is a good omen for Arsenal or not is a moot point, as he was the whistler when these teams met here last December, the home side winning 3-1.
Another omen which doesn't particularly favour Arsenal: These two teams are in the same group for the third time in four seasons, and all five previous fixtures have been won by the home team.
And more bad news: While Arsenal are struggling domestically - their 21-point haul from 15 games represents their worst Premier League start since 1994/95 - their opponents tonight are flying at the top of the Greek league, having equalled the best start to a season in Greece's professional era with nine wins and a draw. They're ten points clear of PAOK in second, and are expected to spend large chunks of tonight's match looking quizzically at their nails and occasionally blowing on them.