Arsenal were not able to continue their winning start to the new season as both Besiktas and the Gunners failed to find the net in the first leg of their play-off in Istanbul. Arsene Wenger’s side will now have some work to do in order to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Demba Ba opened the game with a fantastic shot straight from kick-off. He spotted Wojciech Szczesny off his line, but the Arsenal goalkeeper was back on his line in time to tap the ball out of his goal.
Since then, the Besiktas attackers showed some terrific interface by passing the ball around to eventually test Szczesny. Mustafa first attempted a drilled cross from the left, but Szczesny was able to smother the ball. Two minutes later, Demba Ba found Mustafa, who laid the ball off to Sahan, but he also wasn’t able to open the scoring after a lively start. Besiktas kept pressing as Demba Ba created chance after chance, but again Szczesny was able to save Ba’s attempt on goal, this time a clever volley.
Arsenal’s first chance of the game came after a brilliant counterattack, with Alexis Sanchez doing very well to bring the ball into the goalmouth before passing it to Giroud. Unfortunately, the French striker wasn’t quite able to get a clear shot as he fell to the ground.
The adventurous nature of the opening minutes dissipated after the 20 minute mark, giving Arsenal the chance to catch some breath. They even started to create some more danger with Santi Cazorla trying to cross the ball into the box, however without success. Although Besiktas looked to be back on the front foot now, Arsenal did produce another great opportunity. Wilshire fired a shot on Zengin’s goal, but the goalkeeper reacted quickly enough to save the shot with a fashionable dive.
After just 40 minutes, Besiktas looked to set up some firework. They created an opening down the left and delivered a dangerous cross, but Calum Chambers, who has impressed so far in an Arsenal shirt, headed away the danger.
Moments later, just before the half-time whistle, Besiktas’ biggest chance of the evening occurred as Calum Chambers made a huge error, giving away to ball to Ba. He cut in on his right foot, but placed his shot just to the wrong side of the post. Straight after, Arsenal produced a chance on the other side of the pitch, however Giroud wasn’t able to connect with Ramsey’s ball over the top of the Besiktas back line.
Besiktas’ defense will be a point to worry about for Slaven Bilic and his staff as they gave up lots of space for opponents like Sanchez and Giroud to exploit, but also Wilshere and Ramsey were often getting to much room to operate in. The Turkish club’s forwards were a joy to watch though, creating more shots on target (4) than Arsenal (1) during the first half.
‘The Black Eagles’ started the second half as electrically as they started during the opening minutes of the first. Just two minutes after kick-off, Besiktas tried to break the deadlock, as Sahan cut brilliantly inside the box, with his shot going just wide of the far post.
Arsenal had to replace captain Mikel Arteta shortly after he picked up a knock, which looked like an ankle injury, so he wasn’t able to continue. Mathieu Flamini would take his place in the midfield.
Soon, the match began evolving into a real battle. Arsenal looked like they would be content to leave Istanbul with a draw, but Besiktas, however, knew they couldn’t travel to London with a nil-nil draw from the first leg. As a result, Ramon Motta received the first yellow card of the evening for body-checking Chilean forward Sanchez. Not much later, both Ramsey and Flamini picked up yellow cards.
Arsenal created the first chance after a little thunderstorm of cards, as Sanchez skipped past a defender and decided to slide the ball into the five-yard area. However, his pass resulted in nothing as there wasn’t anyone wearing a red shirt in that particular area. Arsene Wenger decided to bring on Oxlade-Chamberlain for Alexis Sanchez. Bilic reacted on this ‘tactical move’ by replacing Sahan for Tore.
After a dull period, Aaron Ramsey was shown his second yellow card for shirt-pulling 10 minutes before the end of the match, a big decision as there wasn’t that much contact. It was also Aaron Ramsey’s first ever red card in club football.
Just before the end of the game, ‘The Ox’ showed why he was brought on, as he cut inside from the right flank and dribbled through a busy traffic zone in the box. He eventually decided to unleash a powerful shot on target, but Zengin reacted well to tip it onto the far post. Luckily, Ersan Gulum could clear the danger after the ball came back into play.
The match ended without showing any real danger. Nothing really special happened after Chamberlain’s shot aside from another red card - this time for Besiktas Manager Bilic, who was asked to leave the field.
The draw with Besiktas saw Arsenal fail to win a Champions League playoff match for the first time in their last 13 attempts. Nevertheless, they will be happy with a draw, as they are now in prime position to finish it off at the Emirates.