Champions League

Arsenal's Europe hopes intact

2014-08-20 07:17
Arsene Wenger (AFP)

Istanbul - Arsenal head for the home leg of their Champions League play-off against Besiktas with their hopes intact after surviving the test of a raucous Istanbul crowd and hugely-energised opponents to leave Turkey with a goalless draw.

In the first leg of the play-off, Arsenal failed to score the all-important away goal but were relieved to have escaped from Istanbul with a 0-0 scoreline and still every hope they will qualify in the home leg for the group stages.

However, the only sour note was they ended the match with 10 men as key Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey was sent off 10 minutes from time.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged that his side's goalless draw was a fair result for a "difficult" game but blasted the performance of the referee.

"I think not the first not the second yellow card was deserved for Ramsey," Wenger told reporters.

"When you see some of the fouls committed and you go home with a red card for Ramsey it is somewhat unbelievable."

Wenger -- whose 100 percent win record in Champions League play-off matches came to an end after 12 wins in 12 -- described the game as a "difficult match played at a high pace" and praised the opposition for playing at "100 percent".

"Maybe a draw is a fair result as both teams had chances to win the game."

On the return leg in London, he said: "We know that Besiktas is a good team, we know the game will be tight, but the task is clear."

The prospect of entry into the lucrative group stages of the Champions League dynamised Besiktas, who came third in the Turkish league last season under Croatian manager Slaven Bilic.

Helped by the noisy, partisan home crowd, Besiktas caused the London side trouble from the start with new signing Demba Ba a potent threat.

Everything was at stake for Arsenal who came into the game with a 100 percent record in Champions League play-offs, having played 12 and won 12.

For Wenger, failing to make the lucrative group stage of Europe's elite club competition for a 17th consecutive campaign would be nothing short of a disaster.

Wenger had said he was tempted to field German World Cup-winning trio Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski for the first time this season given the potential difficulty of the tie but in the end opted to leave them out.

The home fans treated Arsenal to the traditional -- and notorious -- Istanbul hostile welcome for foreign sides of deafening whistling, smoke flares and taunts as the handful of Gunners fans, who made the trip, looked on mutely.

Besiktas had no problem creating chances but failed to land the clinical blow in front of goal that could have left Arsenal's early season in tatters.

But in a testy second half that lacked the sparkle of the first, Arsenal could also make no headway past the solid Besiktas defence and the Istanbul side scrambled to thwart English attacks before heading out on the break.

Bilic was himself sent to the stands in the dying minutes for protesting at a failure to penalise an Arsenal player for a foul on one of his team but expressed satisfaction with the result.

"It was a great game of football; it was not a dull 0-0. I am really proud of my players, they stuck to their plan," Bilic said.

"From my point of view we were closer to beating them."

Bilic expressed optimism that his side could spring an upset on the return leg in London.

"If we play like this we are capable to creating chances against any team," he said.

"We are going to go to London not just for shopping in Harrods but we are going to go to fulfil - some would say our dream - I would say our plan."

Bilic said he had apologised to the referee at the end of the game for the argument that saw him sent off but insisted he had not misbehaved.

"It was not swearing, I was just unhappy and after the game I apologised. Maybe I over-reacted, my mistake, nothing serious happened," he said.

Read more on:    champions league  |  arsene wenger  |  soccer
NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Tuesday, 13 February 2018
Chelsea v Barcelona, TBA 02:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma, TBA 02:00
Real Madrid v PSG, TBA 02:00
Bayern Munchen v Besiktas, TBA 02:00
Porto v Liverpool, TBA 02:00
Basel v Manchester City, TBA 02:00
Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur, TBA 02:00
Sevilla v Manchester United, TBA 02:00
Tuesday, 06 March 2018
Barcelona v Chelsea, TBA 02:00
Manchester City v Basel, TBA 02:00
Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk, TBA 02:00
Besiktas v Bayern Munchen, TBA 02:00
PSG v Real Madrid, TBA 02:00
Manchester United v Sevilla, TBA 02:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus, TBA 02:00
Liverpool v Porto, TBA 02:00
Logs
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

Which English Premier League club will progress furthest in this season's Champions League?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.