Arsenal vs Besiktas match report: Alexis Sanchez scores only goal as Gunners survive night of nerves to qualify for Champions League

Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0

Emirates Stadium

It would just be a lot simpler if Arsenal could finish in the Premier League’s top three and not have to go through this occasional ritual of anxiety and brinkmanship before taking their place in the Champions League group stages – but they do like to do things the hard way.

This was an August Champions League qualifier fraught with nerves, much more agonising than last season’s 5-0 aggregate win over Fenerbahce. This time Besiktas proved a much more obdurate opponent but the ten men of Arsenal finished the job and, for the 17 year in a row they are in the Champions League group stages, a record unparalleled in English football and the cornerstone of the Arsene Wenger era.

Read more: Player ratings from the Emirates Stadium
Five things we learnt
Jack Wilshere admites he could have given away a penalty

Over 180 minutes however, it was just Alexis Sanchez’s goal that separated them from the team that finished third in the Turkish league last season. There should have been many more for Arsenal and, with or without the injured Olivier Giroud, that will be a concern for Wenger. His side failed to score the goals to kill off an opponent that fought admirably to the very end.

The Arsenal striker will be missing for the next three to four months having had surgery on Wednesday and is not expected to return to competitive action until, his manager said, “the end of December, start of January”. In the aftermath of the game the names were ticked off, from Nikola Zigic to Danny Welbeck via Monaco’s Falcao and the Arsenal manager denied an interest in any of them.

It could prove to be a painful last few days in the transfer window, one of those situations at Arsenal when no potential new goalscorer is good enough for Wenger who is adamant that he has more than enough strikers to last him to the New Year. Could Sanchez play at centre-forward, for the time being? “He could play there for the rest of his life,” was Wenger’s lyrical response.

There was another red card for Arsenal, this time for Mathieu Debuchy which meant that the last few minutes of the game belonged to Besiktas and were unbearable at times for the home support. Demba Ba, the Besiktas striker, formerly of Chelsea, leapt at the back post with two minutes remaining and failed to get more than a touch with his forehead to a cross when a decent contact might well have given his team the tie.

Yet, for all the agony, Arsenal are there in the draw for the group stages today and amid the tension there were some bright points. There was a good performance from Jack Wilshere, the architect of the Sanchez goal and no shortage of the spirit that they have lacked at critical points in past seasons.

The Besiktas manager Slaven Bilic was obliged to watch it from the stands, banned because of his red card in the first leg and consequently one of the livelier spectators the club’s august directors’ box has known. In the first half his team kept Arsenal exactly where they wanted them for all but the last minutes, which was at arms’ length and frustrated by their lack of chances.

Wenger opted for Sanchez at centre-forward in the absence of Giroud. The Chilean had to wait until almost the last kick of the half for his chance, and when it dropped his finish was magnificent. The move had been started by Wilshere whose first half had veered between the kind of suicidal sliding tackles that have partly become his trademark and the edge-of-the-area trickery that represents the best of his game.

Jack Wilshere was a driving presence in the Arsenal midfield Jack Wilshere was a driving presence in the Arsenal midfield

It was the latter that unlocked Besiktas who had hitherto been stoutly refusing to open the door even a little for Arsenal. Debuchy’s driving run down the right started the attack and when the ball eventually fell to Wilshere he sidestepped his opponent and dinked a ball through the collection of players in front of him to Mesut Ozil.

No sooner had the ball left his boot that Wilshere set off in pursuit of the return which was sent back with the requisite weight and speed by Ozil. However, it was Sanchez who was better placed, advancing past Wlshere’s right shoulder, and the striker hit the ball first time, with the inside of his right foot past the goalkeeper Tolga Zengin.

A moment of relief for the Emirates who had watched anxiously as, just minutes earlier, Wilshere had pursued Mustafa Pektemek into the area and appeared to have tripped himself, falling forward towards the Turkey international who went down. Wilshere later as good as admitted there was contact and Wenger accepted his team had been lucky. The Portuguese referee, Pedro Proenca, who had an erratic game, waved away the appeal.

Wilshere had been granted the best chance of the early stages of the game, running through on eight minutes and dragging his shot wide. Without the suspended Aaron Ramsey it was incumbent on the Englishman to take the lead in the game and he certainly tried to do so. Nevertheless, he still slides into tackles with a recklessness that provokes a sharp intake of breath.

The only other opportunity of the first half fell to Santo Cazorla who had a brief sight of goal when the Besiktas goalkeeper Zengin made a mess of a clearance. Alexis Sanchez fires home on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-0 to Arsenal Alexis Sanchez fires home on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-0 to Arsenal

Those chances came more abundantly for Arsenal at the start of the second half. Bilic had remained in the Arsenal directors’ box throughout the break with neither a discreet earpiece nor a plate of half-time canapés in sight. His team looked vulnerable in the early stages when Cazorla dragged a shot wide after five minutes.

More penalty box ingenuity from Wilshere - after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had gone down the right wing – had permitted Sanchez to get off a shot on goal on 52 minutes but Zengin managed to push it wide. There was a back post header from Debuchy who, unmarked should have done better. One more goal, you felt, would seal the tie and deliver another year in the promised land of Europe’s elite but it would not come easy.

There was a warning after the hour when Arsenal conceded the ball in their own area and it ricocheted to Ba. The Besiktas striker turned sharply, too quick for Laurent Koscielny, and unleashed a shot that billowed the side-netting and briefly had the travelling supporters on their feet.

Really, the game should have been over on 74 minutes when Nacho Monreal delivered a cross from the left to the feet of Oxlade-Chamberlain and, having stolen in front of his marker, he directed his shot straight at the goalkeeper Zengin. After that it became much more anxious, starting with Debuchy’s second yellow for a clumsy arm thrust across the chest of Pektemek.

With the right-back sent off, Wenger sent on Calum Chambers for Ozil but some nonsensical departure from the protocol caused the referee Proenca to book the young Englishman as soon as he ran onto the pitch, instructing him to return to the sideling and do it all over again.

The end of the game proved a torment for the home fans but they need not have worried. Arsenal had done just enough. The question now for Wenger in the last dog days of the transfer window is: can they try to do more?

--

Match in numbers

17 - Arsenal have reached the group stages for the 17th consecutive year

0 - Shots on target for Besiktas in last night’s second-leg defeat

12 - Matches since Arsenal last lost – a 3-0 defeat at Everton last April

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Robin van Persie leaves the field at the King Power Stadium last Sunday
football
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

News
people

London 'needs affordable housing'

Arts and Entertainment
music Band accidentally drops four-letter description at concert
Life and Style
tech
News
peopleIan Thorpe addresses Ricky Martin rumours
Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

Extras
indybest
News
Myleene Klass
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines