Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0: Alexis Fires the Gunners into the UCL
Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 45′) – Besiktas 0
Emirates (Champions League)
This was a game of utmost importance to the Gunners and the fact that no goal was scored in Turkey made things a bit uncomfortable at the start of the clash. In recent times, Arsenal had played six qualifying Champions League double-legged and have always excelled into the group stages but this game served as a real test of the team’s nerve and character.
In the space of one week since the last fixture between both sides in Turkey, the Gunners had lost Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud to injury while Aaron Ramsey sat the game out due to a suspension. Per Mertesacker also retained his place with Calum Chambers relegated to the bench. Arsenal almost drew first blood when Jack Wilshere showed great movement to evade two markers before teeing up the Ox. The winger accelerated with the ball before drilling a cross that was blocked.
Sanchez showed off his work rate to win the ball before threading a neat through ball for Wilshere but the maestro’s shot missed by a lick of paint. Besiktas’ goalie, Zengin, made a mess of his clearance that went straight to Santi Cazorla’s path but the diminutive midfielder’s first-timed shot was wide off the mark. Besiktas’ first meaningful attack arrived when an over the top ball was sent to Demba Ba in behind Arsenal’s center back pairing but Wojciech Szczesny showed good anticipation to race off his line and claim the ball.
Sanchez had a sniff at goal from a free kick but it was easy pickings for Zengin. Arsenal launched a counter attack when Cazorla spread a cross-field ball for Mesut Ozil but the German wasn’t in the same wavelength with Sanchez. Mustafa Pektemek was almost afforded a clear chance at goal but Matt Debuchy showed great awareness to make a superb block.
Wilshere strode forward with the ball before feeding a pass to Sanchez but the Chilean’s poor first touch allowed the ball to go beyond his control. However, Sanchez was to have the last laugh as he latched on to a loose ball to side foot the ball home from another attack instigated by Wilshere.
Debuchy sent Ox through on goal with a lobbed effort but the keeper raced out of his line to make himself big so the English winger had to make do with a corner kick. Wilshere sent another disguised pass to Sanchez but the goalie was on hand to make another superb save. Arsenal continued to ask questions of the Besiktas defense and the Gunners were almost two goals to the good when Debuchy nodded Cazorla’s dipping free kick to the side netting.
Mathieu Flamini carelessly offered Ba clear chance at goal with a poor clearance but the Senegalese forward didn’t take the initiative, much to the relief of the Emirates faithful. Arsenal kept knocking at the Besiktas’ defensive door and almost made the lead more comfortable when the Ox fired Monreal’s drilled cross straight at the goalie. For a player of his quality, I expected better from point blank range.
Things became a bit uneasy when Debuchy was sent off for his second bookable offence with put his team in a rather precarious situation.
Ozil had to be sacrificed with Chambers filling the void created at the right full back position. Chambers did well to drift forward and drill a cross to Sanchez but the Chilean hotshot blasted his effort over the bar. The dying moments of the game were very nervy and an equalizer almost arrived when Ba failed to latch on to a cross that was missed by Per Mertesacker.
Wenger talked about Sanchez’ performance, transfer speculation and shared some information about Giroud’s injury. The French bloke had a successfully surgery and would be out for the remainder of the year but as it stands, Wenger confirmed that he doesn’t have anyone in his sights at the moment.
However, he would be concerned about the teams he’d face in the Champions League group stage as the draws take place today.
Thanks, Alexis Sanchez, the football SI Unit for Work Rate, for sending the Gunners into the group stages for the 17th season in a row.
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