10-men Arsenal hang on to qualify for group stages of Champions League
Alexis Sanchez’s first Arsenal goal earned his side a nervy 1-0 victory over Besiktas on Thursday (Aug 28) that saw them squeeze into the Champions League for the 17th consecutive season.
The Chilean, repaid his £30 million (S$62 million) transfer fee by tucking away a low shot in first-half stoppage time, but the hosts’ inability to kill the game off made for a night of nail-biting tension at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal were missing Aaron Ramsey through suspension, while striker Olivier Giroud’s injury saw Sanchez handed another opportunity to prove he can lead the line on his own.
Jack Wilshere and Sanchez combined during first-half injury time, somewhat serendipitously, to put Arsenal ahead
When Arsenal's Mathieu Debuchy’s cross was headed clear, Wilshere toed the ball to Mesut Ozil and although the England midfielder could not take the German’s return pass into his stride, the ball broke kindly for Sanchez to roll a low shot past Zengin.
The Turkish side only had to score one goal to kick-out the North London side, so it made for a nervy ending for the Gunners when Debuchy was dismissed for two yellow cards with 15 minutes to go..
But Arsenal hung on for the 1-0 aggregate win.
Early shower for Debuchy. Photo: Reuters
“We produced the performance we wanted – on the tactical side, on the technical side, and on the mental side,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who revealed that Giroud will be out for up to four months after undergoing surgery on a broken tibia.
“We were at the level that was requested tonight against a good team, but we couldn’t finish the game off and that made it nervous in the last 10 minutes when we were down to 10 men.” Wenger’s side will discover the identities of their group-phase opponents in Friday's (Aug 29) draw.
“Of course we are gutted, because we played good in both games and are close to qualifying for the Champions League against great opponents,” Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic told Sky Sports.
“Those couple of chances we had to score, but we didn’t. Congratulations to Arsenal. They had the experience and quality up front when needed," he added.
Besiktas will now compete in the Europa League.