Champions League: Lucky Gunners

Champions League: Lucky Gunners
BIG LOSS: Above, Aaron Ramsey, the man Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic picked out as Arsenal’s best player ahead of yesterday’s match, will miss the second leg due to suspension.

UK - After a bad-tempered night in Istanbul, Arsenal will feel fortunate to have returned to London without losing ground in this crucial Champions League qualifier.

Arsene Wenger, for his part, will feel fortunate that he wasn't injured when a bottle was hurled at him from the stands at the final whistle.

Aaron Ramsey will miss the second leg after he was dismissed in the second half, Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic may join him in the stands after he was sent from the touchline for repeated dissent, and a Uefa investigation into the events of the night seems likely.

Crossbar

There may not have been any goals, but this was not a night short of incident. It could have started disastrously for Arsenal when Demba Ba, formerly of Chelsea, bounced the ball off the crossbar from the kick-off.

The Gunners had Wojciech Szczesny to thank for his awareness and agility - the Polish stopper just managing to turn the shot onto the woodwork.

That was enough to wake up everyone inside the vast Ataturk Stadium, the venue where Liverpool famously beat AC Milan in the final of this competition in 2005. But, while Arsenal did not lack ambition, they struggled to find fluency.

Alexis Sanchez made repeated inroads down the right flank, but was rarely able to find an appropriate target for a final ball.

This was not entirely his fault. The powerful Olivier Giroud, who should be everything that any team need in a lone striker, was in subdued form and was unable to dominate the penalty area.

Behind him, Jack Wilshere and Ramsey were less than the sum of their parts and for much of the game, Arsenal's best outlets were their fullbacks, Matthieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal and their best performer was Szczesny, always alert to the frequent danger of Besiktas.

But, while Arsenal made the running, Bilic's side made the chances.

Ba should have opened the scoring just before the break when he capitalised on a slip by Calum Chambers, who retained his place at the centre of defence, but drove the ball wide when he was clean through on goal.

This, however, was an isolated moment of weakness from the 19-year-old.

For the most part, he dealt well with wave after wave of Turkish assaults, showing a maturity beyond his years and a pleasing decisiveness in the tackle. He is already looking like a fine acquisition.

Winner

Arsenal could have snatched a winner in the dying moments when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the post after an incisive burst into the box, but it would have been rather more than they deserved.

For all their work, they created few chances of note.

Little wonder that Bilic was so frustrated by the end that he pushed his luck too far with the officials.

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