Besiktas vs Arsenal match report: Gunners just hang on after Aaron Ramsey red card

Besiktas 0 Arsenal 0

Ataturk Olympic Stadium

There are better ways to ease your way into the season than by playing 90 draining minutes away in Istanbul, under the heavy pressure of a fervent crowd and an incisive opposition, and coming away with bookings, knocks, and a red card.

But Arsenal came away with a clean sheet too, and while Arsene Wenger admitted he is worred about what this means for Saturday’s trip to Everton, with captain Mikel Arteta likely to miss out, he should be confident about beating Besiktas at home next week and, more to the point, proud of his players.

Read more: Match report - Besiktas 0 Arsenal 0
Wenger labels ref 'very bad'
Bilic targeting win in London

Arsenal showed impressive character here to contain Slaven Bilic’s brisk, feisty, dangerous side. Wojciech Szczesny made some good saves – one after just six seconds, while Calum Chambers, on his Champions League debut, was almost flawless in his shackling of Demba Ba. The midfield, often over-worked, fought ferociously and had to do even more after Aaron Ramsey’s unfortunate dismissal with 10 minutes left.

There might even be a tinge of frustration, amid the pride, that Arsenal did not score the away goal that would have almost confirmed their passage into the group stage before next week. Alexis Sanchez was thrilling on the counter-attack in the first half, but is still cajoling his team-mates towards his wavelength, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came closer than anyone when he hit the post in the dying moments.

Besiktas were the more dangerous side but they will also be the more disappointed. They come back to the Emirates next Wednesday, and the omens are not in their favour.

 

Arsenal are rather adept at overcoming these early-season hurdles; a reward, of sorts, for specialising in fourth place. They had won all 12 matches – and six ties – before last night’s draw, and few of them were ever in doubt. Last year, they also came to Istanbul, to play Fenerbahce at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium, and won 3-0.

Mikel Arteta limps off injured Mikel Arteta limps off injured This was a different setting, not boxed-in, in central Istanbul, but out of town at the windy spacious Olympic Stadium, better known for hosting Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League final victory. The Besiktas fans have to make this open bowl their own for now, but they did a good job: the noise beforehand was so loud that some Arsenal players had headphones on when they first came out onto the pitch, over an hour before the game started.

Read more: Ramsey red card 'unbelievable' - Wenger
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt
Chambers named man of the match... again

Arsenal hoped to subdue the atmosphere early on but in fact the opposite happened: Demba Ba spotted Wojciech Szczesny off his line from kick-off and shot, forcing a desperate backward scramble to prevent a six-second opener.

That ignited the home support – the Besiktas fans have already taken Ba to heart – and Arsenal were immediately pinned in by waves of noise and waves of attacks. Besiktas played brisk, intricate football, threatening to slice Arsenal open.

Aaron Ramsey receives his red card Aaron Ramsey receives his red card At this point it must have come as a relief to Arsene Wenger that he picked his strongest side, rather than preserving legs for Saturday’s trip to Goodison Park. Calum Chambers, already looking like a senior centre-back in just his third performance there, handled Demba Ba well for the most part. Ba, who looked close to his athletic, imaginative best, got free to shoot twice in the first half: the first time, Szczesny dived to his left to save the volley, the second, just before the break, Ba skewed wide of the near post.

Digging in at one end, with just enough success, Arsenal tried to play on the counter-attack. The arrival of Alexis Sanchez – their quickest and strongest player – has transformed their ability to do this, and he made three early openings for his team-mates. Olivier Giroud missed two, Santi Cazorla the other. Just before the break, Jack Wilshere forced Tolga Zengin into a diving save while Giroud, in the last action of a hectic first-half, failed to connect with a shot when through on goal. Arsenal had made it to the interval.

Within two minutes of the restart their good work was nearly undermined when Olcay darted in behind Mathieu Debuchy, opened his body up and curled a shot just beyond Szczesny’s far post. Mikel Arteta, so important at balancing the team defensively, was on the receiving end of a Ba tackle that Wenger described as “very bad”. He went off for Mathieu Flamini, who was, not entirely uncharacteristically, booked within five minutes of coming on. Arsenal were under pressure again.

Nacho Monreal followed Flamini into the book, for a late tackle on Pektemek, after two short passes from Wilshere and Koscielny had set up a Besiktas counter-attack.

Arsenal scurried and scampered and fouled to stay in the game, Wilshere almost knocking Pektemek onto the running track, much to his displeasure. This was becoming a drain on their legs, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Everton. There were flickers of openings on the break, but they never quite materialised into chances; Wilshere nearly set up Ramsey. Sanchez nearly set up Giroud.

The problem, with 10 minutes left, was that the necessary fouls had added up and Ramsey’s tug on Ozyakup, bounding away from him, was his second bookable offence and saw him dismissed. As Wenger pointed out afterwards, worse fouls went unpunished, but Arsenal had to react. Survival was the only priority, Wenger switched to 4-4-1.

Besiktas thought that they had Arsenal just where they wanted them. Wenger had thrown Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with not many more options on the bench. Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, provided the pace and ambition that had drained out of Arsenal’s game in the second half. He even nearly scored the crucial away goal, slaloming into the penalty area, beating Zengin with his left-footed shot but hitting the post in the penultimate minute of normal time.

That, in fact, was closer than Besiktas came to scoring in the final minutes. They were just as worn out, but they needed a goal more, and Slaven Bilic was sent off in stoppage time for showing his understandable frustration. Arsene Wenger, who was hit by a bottle thrown by Besiktas fans at the end, will be more relieved, if not relaxed quite yet.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works