Arsenal survive Besiktas storm as Wenger rages over Ramsey
Gunners favourites to make Champions League, despite outrageous Demba Ba effort
Besiktas 0 Arsenal 0. The Gunners weathered a Turkish storm to establish themselves as favourites to qualify for the first round of the Champions League. A goalless draw in Istanbul against Besiktas means the English team will be confident of proceeding when they host the Turks in the second leg at the Emirates next Wednesday.
But Arsenal will have to beat Besiktas without Aaron Ramsey, who was sent off 11 minutes from time for a second bookable offence. It was the Welshman's first dismissal in club football and both offences for which he received a yellow card were questionable, certainly in the view of Arsene Wenger, who could barely contain his fury after a frustrating night.
"Neither the first nor the second yellow card was deserved," stormed the Frenchman, who confirmed that he reported to Uefa that an object was thrown at him from the stands of the Ataturk Olympic Stadium at the final whistle. "When you see some of the fouls that were made and we go home with Ramsey sent off, it is a bit unbelievable."
Arsenal will be relieved to return home with no serious injuries other than the worrying sight of Mikel Arteta hobbling off with what looked an ankle injury. The club captain was replaced by Mathieu Flamini and though there was no news from the Arsenal camp at the end of the evening the Spaniard looks to be a doubt for their away trip to Everton on Saturday.
"It was a difficult match, played at a high pace," said Wenger. "Besiktas played with 100 per cent pace in the game and fought for every single ball, and it was quick. We needed a great level of concentration."
The pitch wasn't up too much, either, and nor in the Frenchman's opinion was the referring, "In the second half the performance of the referee was very bad," Wenger said. "Ramsey's second yellow card, I cannot see where that came from, it was a huge decision. I felt a lot was wrong in the second half but, overall, it was a difficult game maybe to referee as well because everybody did fight for every ball."
Despite the scoreline there were some moments to saviour, perhaps none more so than the first few seconds of the match when former Chelsea striker Demba Ba spotted Wojciech Szczesny off his line straight from the kick off and attempted an audacious long-range lob that the Pole did well in the end to tip onto the bar. Ba then forced a sharp save from Szczesny with an athletic volley, but Arsenal were creating chances of their own.
Olivier Giroud, who again looked off the pace, should have done better from point-blank range after fine work down the right flank from Alexis Sanchez. But it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came closest to breaking the deadlock when just two minutes from time he darted into the penalty area and had his shot turned on to the post by Tolga Zengin.
As Wenger admitted, a draw was "a fair result" but he will fancy his side to make short work of the Turks next week and reach the Champions League group stage for a 17th consecutive season.