Aug 21, 2013, 5:22 PM EDT
Fenerbahçe certainly didn’t live up to expectations today in Istanbul, the cauldron that is the Şükrü Saracoğlu going untended as Arsenal walked through the first leg of their UEFA Champions League playoff. After going into half time drawn 0-0, the Gunners got second half goals from Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, and Olivier Giroud en route to a huge, 3-0 lead over Turkey’s runners-up.
The second leg of the teams’ playoff takes place next Tuesday at The Emirates, with the winner qualifying for Champions League’s group stage.
Arsenal dictated play throughout in the first half, particularly over the match’s first 20 minutes, yet they had nothing to show for it at halftime. In the second period, Theo Walcott took advantage of his mismatch with Fenerbahçe left back Michal Kaldec, with Ramsey’s stellar night in midfield helping the Gunners translate control into production.
The first instance came in the 51st minute as a Ramsey ball threaded through the Fener defense allowed Walcott to pick out Gibbs for an easy opener. In the 64th minute, Ramsey doubled Arsenal’s lead with a shot from outside the box. Giroud completed the scoring in the 77th after a call against Kadlec gave the Arsenal striker a chance from the spot.
Up three goals halfway through their playoff, Arsenal helped assuage doubts festering from Saturday’s upset loss to Aston Villa. An early injury to Laurent Koscielny, kicked in the face by Pierre Webo, was the only negative Arsenal will take out of Istanbul, with Arsène Wenger telling Sky Sports after the match that his central defender was taking to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Fenerbahçe, on the other hand, will need one of (if not the) most famous wins in club history to avoid relegation to Europa League.
Elsewhere in Champions League
Schalke (Germany) 1, PAOK (Greece) 1 - A disappointing start to the 2013-14 season continued for Schalke despite going up early through Jefferson Farfan. In the second half, however, Miroslav Stoch gave PAOK a valuable road goal, assuring a clean sheet next week in Thessaloniki will put them into the next round.
Steaua Bucharest (Romania) 1, Legia Warsaw (Poland) 1 - Federico Piovaccari opened the scoring after 33 minutes, lifting his shot over Legia keeper Dusan Kuciak to give the hosts a halftime lead. Eight minutes into the second half, a defensive breakdown left 22-year-old Jakub Kosecki open on the other end of a Miroslav Radovic cross, allowing Legia to get out of Romania with a road goal.
Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 0, Austria Wien 2 - Dinamo had more of the ball and the advantage in total shots but find themselves on the wrong end of a crushing result. Conceding twice within a seven-minute span in the second half (to Marin Leovac, Marko Stankovic), Dinamo allowed the Austrian champions to leave Zagreb with a commanding lead.
Ludogorets (Bulgaria) 2, Basel (Switzerland) 4 - Underdogs going into the tie, the Bulgarians had a 2-1 lead after 50 minutes, Ivan Stoyanov putting Ludogorets ahead after the teams traded first half goals. But tallies Mohamed Salah, Giovanni Sio, and Fabian Schär give the Swiss champions a decisive lead and a likely return to Champions League’s group stage.
Apr 16, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 AM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 7:58 AM EDT
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Apr 16, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT
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Apr 15, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT
Mexico’s top two teams reach halftime of their two-legged final, with leg two kickoff next Wednesday in Toluca.
Apr 15, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT
The top four remain unchanged, while Houston, New England, and Portland make big shifts on this week’s chart.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT
Thoughts from NBCSN’s analysts as will as footage from Rodgers’, Martínez’s speeches at Anfield.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Three LA Galaxy players join two members of the Columbus Crew in our Best XI.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT
Gunners go back into the top four, but can they hold off Everton?
Apr 15, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Four soccer players rank amount the world’s top 25 earners.
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