Playing in Istanbul is never easy, part of the reason Arsène Wenger may take solace in his team’s result, but when Besiktas’s Demba Ba gave Arsenal scares at the beginning and end of the first half, a harsher reality set in for the talented Gunners: Tuesday’s game, the first of their two-legged, Champions League playoff, had to be able survival.
Limited to three shots on target, and out-shot 14-10 overall, Arsenal managed to survive, with the Gunners’ best chance coming through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 89th minute. Thanks to a save from Tolga Zengin (and some help from the post), the teams ended their first leg 0-0, leaving the sides as they started when they resume next week at the Emirates.
That’s not to say nothing’s changed. With two yellow cards, Aaron Ramsey earned himself a one game ban, with Slaven Bilic potentially joining him in the stands next Wednesday. The Beskitas head coach was sent from his bench late at Vodafone Arena, with the nature of the dismissal set to dictate whether the former Croatia boss will be on the sidelines in North London.
Whether he will or not, Bilic has to relish his team’s position. While it would have been ideal to see Ba convert one of his chances, Besiktas is still in a position to take advantage of the away goals rule. Though they’ll be heavy underdogs, a score draw next week will send Turkey’s third place finishers into the group stage.
Napoli 1-1 Athletic
Iker Munain’s goal just before half time sent Los Leones into halftime up one, with a Napoli team that held 56 percent possession throughout the opening leg spending the rest of the night in pursuit. In the 68th minute, that pursuit came good, with Gonzalo Higuaín pulling Rafa Benítez’s team even, but leaving the San Paulo on even footing, Napoli must now overcome an away goal at an Athletic side that’s never lost at home against Italian opposition.
Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Malmö
A match dominated by Salzburg tuned sour after miscommunication at the back in the 90th minute allowed a looping ball for Emil Forsberg to give the Swedes a crucial away goal. Though Salzburg ended the night with 27 shots while holding 57 percent of the ball, goals from Franz Schiemer and Jonatan Soriano could only craft a tenuous lead. The Austrians will go north knowing a 1-0 loss will send them to Europa.
Steaua Bucharest 1-0 Ludogorets
A game of few chances saw the Romanians salvage their home leg in the 88th minute when Alexandru Chipciu, who had missed a spot kick earlier, scored from close range. The goal also made up for the yellow card the forward drew in the first half, a booking that will keep him out of the second leg in Bulgaria.
Copenhagen 2-3 Bayer Leverkusen
A 5th goal from Stefan Kießling drew a quick response from the Danes, who converted on set pieces in the ninth (Zanka) and 13th (Daniel Amartey) minutes. Finishing an explosive first half, Bayer got goals from Karim Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son, allowing the visitors to take a one-goal lead into intermission. With neither team proving as clinical in the second half, the Germans take that edge back the BayArena, with Stale Solbakken’s team given the unenviable test of overcoming a one-goal deficit and three away goals.