[Video]: Arsenal 1 – 0 Besiktas [UEFA Playoff] Highlights | DOWNLOAD
Arsenal 1 – 0 Besiktas
Calum Chambers was also booked for coming onto the field prematurely as Arsene Wenger sought to reshuffle the team, and may have a case for over officiousness. But as Beskitas had what appeared to be a very reasonable penalty claim rejected in the first-half, it seems Arsenal got the better of the poor calls on the night.
Up in the stands, banned from the touchline for being dismissed in the first leg, Slaven Bilic appeared to be channelling the moods and intensity of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Somehow, Arsenal clung on. They did have good second-half chances, too, not least one that fell to Alexis Sanchez after 53 minutes and header from Debuchy that found the side-netting after 61 – but that did little to settle the home nerves.
Had Demba Ba not struck a shot wide after woeful defending from Mathieu Flamini in the 64th minute, and failed to connect with a head in the final minute of normal time, this could have been the end of 17 years of excellence. Instead, an Arsenal delegation will depart for Monaco and the draw proper in the morning. Just don’t say it was never in doubt.
It was the 1997-98 season when a Champions League group stage last took place without Arsenal but, as this match headed for half-time without the deadlock broken, it was clear Arsene Wenger’s proud record was being challenged like never before.
Besiktas were growing in confidence, their fans boisterous and vocal, their forwards getting closer to Arsenal’s goal with each approach. Pektemek turned Per Mertesacker and was thwarted only by a brave and perfectly timed tackle from Debuchy. Then there was the appeal for a penalty after Jack Wilshere had made a desperate lunge in an attempt to stop Ramon Motta. It was hard to identify specific contact, an unlikely hand to foot looked most likely, but the timing and proximity of the falls would have convinced more than a few referees.
Arsenal have been here too many times, steering a successful path through on each occasion, for the fans to hit the panic button so early. Even so, the vital intervention of Sanchez could not have come at a better time.