Fenerbahçe 0 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 Gibbs (51)
0 – 2 Ramsey (64)
0 – 3 Giroud (78 pen)
Well, it was either that or some pun revolving around turkey basting.
Having talked the talk, Fenerbahçe found Arsenal in no mood to let them walk all over them and spared Uefa’s blushes in Istanbul last night. With three away goals, the outcome of the CAS appeal for the Turks looks increasingly irrelevant to this season’s Champions League.
It was a straightforward victory, borne of hard work, honest endeavour and superior technique, encapsulated in Aaron Ramsey’s Man of the Match performance that was rounded off with his richly deserved goal. Arsenal dominated proceedings from kick-off and suppressed their hosts to the extent that it took nearly half an hour for Wojciech Szczesny to be called into meaningful action.
Despite dominating proceedings, Arsenal could fashion few clear cut openings in the first half and when they did, Demirel was on hand to smother them. Giroud, Walcott and Ramsey all peppered the goal with efforts but missed the target. As the visitors continued to control the match, Arsène Wenger’s plans were disrupted when Laurent Koscielny suffered a head injury – described by Colin Lewin as one of the worst he had ever seen – when Webo’s boot connected with the French defender. Unintentional and highly dangerous play but the silver lining came with Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker getting an hour or so in each other’s company ahead of Saturday’s visit to Craven Cottage. That the pair were relatively untroubled in that time was a mark of how well the pair and the midfield ahead of them were playing.
As the second half began, Fenerbahçe began to assert themselves with Kuyt sending a shot over the bar. It proved to be a false dawn as Arsenal took a deserved lead minutes later. Eschewing the opportunity to panic and shoot in haste, Ramsey fed the ball to Walcott whose drilled his cross into the path of Kieran Gibbs, the left back firing the ball into the roof of the net from six yards out. The goal was just reward for the first half performance. Walcott almost doubled the lead minutes later, Demirel was up to the task.
The Turks responded and echoes of the past resonated when Szczesny confronted Sow bravely, studs raking down the goalkeepers neck. It was the sort of wound that Bob Wilson often risked with his bravery during his spell as Arsenal’s custodian. The Pole played on and minutes later, Wilshere drew a good save from Demirel. It was a brief respite as Ramsey received his just reward by firing in Arsenal’s second, having strolled through the home side’s midfield unchallenged. It was a carbon copy of Cesc’s strike in Milan and sealed victory.
Sow almost gave his side a foothold in the tie but headed over when he should have done better and the second leg became almost academic when Walcott was shoved to the ground, Giroud’s penalty into the top corner giving Arsenal three away goals to take back to The Emirates with a thoroughly deserved victory. Little wonder that the manager was pleased post-match, enjoying the moment. Clouds were soon on the horizon with the talk turning to transfers, the lack of activity and failure to land Luis Suarez but that can wait for another day. Today is about enjoying a good performance, one that does not solve any of the problems which already existed beyond making next week’s second leg more straightforward but equally, none of them have got worse. Looking at it from a team perspective, Laurent Koscielny’s injury isn’t going to cause problems for the weekend as his suspension keeps him out of the trip to Craven Cottage anyway. No further injuries were picked up which is a positive because the bench last night highlighted the problems Wenger has.
The performance offers no more of a guide to how the season will progress than Saturday’s defeat. It offers reassurance in some respects that the form of late last season can be drawn upon but until that resurfaces consistently, nothing can be assumed either way. Let’s not forget either that Fenerbahçe were distinctly ordinary opposition and whilst the atmosphere was loud, it seemed that a sign welcoming Arsenal to Hull rather than Hell was more appropriate. The home side were definitely afraid of their visitors, who knows perhaps more wary than normal because of the result against Aston Villa. That is not to take anything away from Arsenal. They controlled the game, showed good technique in retaining possession for long spells and thoroughly deserved their win. Indeed, their performance would have significantly contributed to the paucity of Fenerbahçe’s, depriving them of the ball and stopping them from building momentum; everything that Per Mertesacker spoke about before the game, the players did and they deserve credit for that.
Arsenal are in control of the tie and whilst it may be complacent to presume that they have negotiated this hurdle, on the basis of yesterday it is very difficult indeed to see any other outcome from this qualifying round.