The first legs of UEFA’s Champions League playoffs (or, play-ins) were completed on Wednesday, with 10 teams moving 90 minutes closer to certainty. For some, the group stage dream remains alive. For others, next week’s return legs could prove perfunctory.
For Arsenal, it was a day were another group stage spot was nearly assured. For 13 straight seasons, the Gunners have qualified for the main part of the tournament, and after goals from Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, and Olivier Giroud in Istanbul, Arsenal’s lead (3-0) will be near-impossible for Fenerbahçe to overturn.
Elsewhere Basel, favorites going into their matchup with Ludogerets, scored four goals in Bulgaria to take a two-goal lead into their home leg. Steaua Bucharest, Romanian champions, were drawn at home by Legia Warsaw (1-1), while Austria Wien posted an impressive 2-0 win at Dinamo Zagreb.
And in perhaps the day’s most surprising result, Greece’s PAOK were able to pull-back an early Jefferson Farfan goal to earn a 1-1 result at Schalke. The Miners, off to a disappointing 0-1-1 start in league, are always enigmatic, but failing to take an advantage out of their home leg, their inconsistency could land them in Europa League.
Courtesy of FOX Sports, here are Wednesday’s highlights, with Arsenal-Fenerbahçe at the top of the page.
Schalke (Germany) 1, PAOK (Greece) 1
Ludogerets (Bulgaria) 2, Basel (Switzerland) 4
Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 0, Austria Wien 2
Steaua Bucharest (Romania) 1, Legia Warsaw (Poland) 1