Lone Goal By Alexis Sanchez Sends Arsenal To UEFA Champion’s League

Lone Goal By Alexis Sanchez Sends Arsenal To UEFA Champion’s League


A lone goal by newly signed Alexis Sanchez Wednesday night, sent Arsenal to the European Champion League’s group stage.

Alexis Sanchez paid off his £30 million fee with one touch here, scoring the goal that sent Arsenal through to the lucrative group stages of the Champions League.

Arsenal were nervous at times, were fortunate not to concede a penalty and played 14 minutes with 10 men after Mathieu Debuchy was dismissed, but Sanchez’s poacher’s touch was enough.

There is so much to admire in the Chilean. He showed his class during the World Cup, qualities that were never fully used at Barcelona and he was given the stage here at Arsenal by Arsene Wenger. He took his goal well, finishing firmly after a lengthy move had been accelerated by Jack Wilshere, giving one of his best displays, and Mesut Ozil.

If that moment just before the break proved the defining moment of this Champions League play-off, Sanchez’s overall contribution was immense. He worked so hard, even when the ball was not coming his way for 44 minutes.

Playing the lone frontrunner’s role, Sanchez hounded Besiktas’ defenders. When Debuchy was sent off, Sanchez seemed to work even harder, being a willing target-man, holding the ball up, running the clock down, and deservedly heading down the tunnel after the final whistle to chants of “Sanchez, Sanchez”.

Wenger claimed that Arsenal had enough cover in attack to cope with the absence of Olivier Giroud with an ankle injury. Giroud was sitting at home, watching the game on television, his ankle heavily strapped. His replacement, Sanchez, seemed isolated for 44 minutes, running manfully, making those remarkable bursts of acceleration, but struggling to find space. Only when Wilshere and Ozil suddenly increased the pressure as the half closed was Besiktas’ defence opened up and Sanchez had his chance.

Until then Arsenal, and Sanchez, had been running down cul-de-sacs.

Arsenal tried all avenues. When Sanchez was clattered by Veli Kavlak, Wilshere was quickest to the loose ball, running on and snaking a left-footed shot wide. It was good advantage played by Pedro Proenca, the Portuguese referee, but a disappointing finish from Wilshere.

With Aaron Ramsey banned, Wilshere’s role was even more important, linking with Mathieu Flamini and surging on towards Sanchez. In his hunger for hunting down possession, Wilshere was left challenging thin air when Ismail Koybasi spirited the ball around him.

Wilshere’s England team-mate, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, was occasionally making good ground down the right. So was Arsenal’s full-back, Debuchy, lifting in a couple of promising crosses. Debuchy, so positive going forward, then revealed a negative trait, a touch of indiscipline, catching Kevlak in the face with his shoulder.

Arsenal had their chances, had the right levels of urgency, but not the accuracy until the 45th minute. Santi Cazorla sent a shot wide after a loose clearance from Tolga Zengin, the Besiktas keeper, who then gathered a tame free-kick from Sanchez. Arsenal were also frustrated by the tall ball-winning Atiba Hutchinson blocking the way to Sanchez for 44 minutes.

Arsenal were living dangerously at times defensively. Debuchy slid in and appeared to catch Mustafa Pektemek. Besiktas had an even stronger shout for a penalty when Wilshere charged in and brought down Ramon Motta, who was running on to Olcay Sahan’s cutback. It seemed a penalty. Motta was convinced. So was Slaven Bilic, Besiktas’ coach who was up in the stands after being sent off in Istanbul. Bilic leapt up in anger that Proenca, who was well-placed, had waved play on. The raucous Besiktas fans, displaying a banner that read “Soldiers of Istanbul”, were furious.

Arsenal woke up, Wilshere sending Sanchez in but Tolga Zengin blocked. On the cusp of half-time, Arsenal broke through with a move that travelled 80 yards. The ball was first worked along the back-line, from Laurent Koscielny to Per Mertesacker, who knocked it forward to Oxlade-Chamberlain. He picked out Debuchy on the right, the Frenchman taking his time, assessing his options, before rolling the ball inside to Sanchez and heading down the line awaiting the return.

Sanchez provided the pass and Debuchy advanced before crossing into the box. Besiktas’ defence scrambled the ball clear but Flamini regained possession, heading it to Wilshere. These are the situations the No 10 loves, running into the area, juggling the ball, then laying it off to Ozil. The German World Cup-winner returned the ball to Wilshere, whose touch was slightly heavy. The ball still ran invitingly for Sanchez, who swept it past Tolga Zengin for his first goal for Arsenal.

Relief spread through the Emirates. Arsenal seemed invigorated. Ozil was influential, making some neat touches, including a delightful cushioned header. Wilshere seemed stronger, turning away from markers, running away from them, putting Besiktas on the back-foot. Wilshere ran 50 yards, finding Ozil, who was brought down by Franco. Cazorla curled the free-kick to the far-post where Debuchy, timing his run well, failed to make the most of the opportunity and headed wide.

Arsenal were aware that one mistake would be so expensive, giving Besiktas the away goal. Flamini dithered in clearing, Demba Ba nicked the ball ahead of Koscielny but found only the side-netting.

Arsenal set about looking for the second goal, a vital cushion. Sanchez was working hard, chasing the ball. Cazorla created a good chance for the Chilean, racing 50 yards, laying the ball right to the Sanchez, whose shot was blocked. Then Oxlade-Chamberlain was denied by Zengin from close range.

Debuchy then received his second yellow after 76 minutes, apparently for pulling back an opponent. Arsenal frustration with Proenca deepened when he then cautioned Calum Chambers, who was replacing Ozil, for coming on too quickly. It was pure pedantry by the Portuguese official, the type that infuriates players and sends fans into ferment.

Still there were jitters, not least when Ba failed to make proper contact with a header with Arsenal’s goal at his mercy. Wojciech Szczesny then made an important catch. Sanchez kept running, kept occupying Besiktas defenders. He slumped to the turf at the end, having helped Arsenal into the group stage of Thursday’s draw in Monaco. He’d given everything and that goal meant so much to Arsenal.

As Sanchez was serenaded, Debuchy made the stupid decision of venturing back on to the pitch to continue his complaints with Proenca, something that Uefa might note. Arsenal will not worry. They are into the draw, in with the top seeds, and they have in Sanchez a tireless worker with an eye for goal.

Player ratings:

ARSENAL (4-1-4-1): Szczesny 6, Debuchy 5, Mertesacker 8, Koscielny 8, Monreal 6, Flamini 5, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Cazorla 7, Wilshere 7, Ozil 6, Sanchez 7

Subs: Chambers (on for Ozil, 77).

BESIKTAS (4-4-1-1): Zengin 6, Koybasi 6, Franco 6, Gulum 5, Motta 6, Pektemek 6, Hutchinson 7, Kavlak 6, Sahan 6, Ozyakup 5, Ba 6

Subs: Tore (on for Sahan, 63). Uysal (on for Kavlak, 77).

[H/T: UK Telegraph]

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