2 Fenerbahce 0 – Ramsey Double Eases Arsenal Through
avoided any unlikely difficulties and eased into the Champions League group
stages for another year by seeing off Fenerbahce 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium,
resulting in a 5-0 aggregate victory.
The visitors, utterly useless in the first leg of the tie
last week, came with a bit more vigour about them this time, threatening early
on and Wojciech Szczesny was forced into action early on when a clearance
ricocheted off Raul Meireles almost looping over the Polish ‘keeper.
Arsenal started slowly but grew into the game, Theo
Walcott tested Volkan Demirel in the Fenerbahce goal from distance, and Olivier
Giroud fired wide after a Jack Wilshere led counter attack following some nifty
footwork from Santi Cazorla on the half way line.
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute and it
was the man of the moment Aaron Ramsey that provided it. After some neat
passing on the edge of the Fenerbahce penalty area, Lukas Podolski sent a deft
through ball for Walcott, but a lunging defender got to the ball first. It was
cleared straight into the path of Ramsey though, who had the simplest of tasks
of rolling it into a vacant net. 1-0, and any hopes the away side had of a
surprising comeback were totally dead. Giroud wasted the opportunity to double
our advantage shortly after, shooting from a wide angle inside the area when
the cut back seemed a better option.
Fenerbahce then had some chances of their own. Bruno Alves
struck a free kick from 25 yards just wide and Szczesny made two good saves in
a minute after Emmanuel Emenike spun clear of Bacary Sagna forcing a save onto
the post, before Szczesny was quickly called into action again from close range
from the following play. It was a mixed performance from our number one; he
looked comfortable for most of the game but also caused plenty of concern with
a couple of uncertain looking decisions, maybe down to his young age rather
than anything more detrimental to his ability.
Giroud had another good chance to make it 2-0 just before
the break, skying a ball across from Nacho Monreal from close range and we went
into half time comfortable enough with the 1-0 lead.
The second half started on a less positive note; Podolski
sprinted down the left flank and pulled up with a hamstring strain after his
cross was cleared for a corner. Kieran Gibbs came on for the German who was
withdrawn via a stretcher, and Arsene Wenger announced after the game he’s
likely to miss three weeks as a result.
A slow second half saw little action of note, with Arsenal
rarely getting out of second gear, as the tie was all but complete. Gibbs
flicked a long ball on into the path of Cazorla who chested it down and let fly
with his left foot, forcing a decent stop from Demirel. And Walcott hit the bar
from a free kick on the left hand side of the penalty area after a Meireles
The best moment of the game came in the form of Arsenal’s
second goal. Some neat interchanging between second half substitute Yaya Sanogo
and Wilshere allowed space for Gibbs to break down our left flank. His cross
was met perfectly by Ramsey, who opened himself up and slotted the ball
brilliantly into the far corner on the volley, a goal any striker would’ve been
proud of and capped off another very impressive display from the ever improving
At 2-0 it was totally done and dusted. Sanogo saw a shot
sail high and wide after a quick Cazorla break, and Wilshere failed to test the
‘keeper following a poor touch inside the Fenerbahce area. Ryo Miyaichi came on
for Walcott on the right wing, and provided a perfect opportunity for Carl
Jenkinson to score his first goal for the Club, but the young right back’s half
volley was straight at Demirel who kept it out well.
Fenerbahce resorted to unprovoked violence in the dying
minutes, largely aimed at Wilshere who spent more time on the floor than on his
feet come the end of the game. Ramsey was withdrawn with an unspecified knock
so we ended the game with ten men, but we kept a clean sheet and ensured a 12th
win out of 12 games in Champions League qualification fixtures, and a place in
the draw for the Group Stages on Thursday afternoon.
It was a thoroughly professional 180 minutes of football
to put away comfortably a side that many feared would be hard work when the
draw was first made. We didn’t need to be at our best last night after the job
was all but done in the first leg, but credit to the team for seeing it
It would have been ideal to have a squad large enough for
rotation, but “ideal” and “Arsenal” seldom goes hand in hand these days.
Podolski’s injury is thoroughly unfortunate after another impressive display and
there are concerns over Wilshere and Ramsey’s fitness ahead of the North London
Derby on Sunday too.
We’ll have to wait and see how that plays
out, but it’s now or never for Wenger to make the additions we need to the
squad in order for us to compete for silverware this season. The nucleus of the
squad have showed over the past three games what they are capable of, but only
four games into the season and injuries are already beginning to take their
toll, leaving us unbearably thin in numbers and placing an unnecessary amount
of pressure on those that we do have available to us.
Whilst Wenger has his work cut out in the transfer window,
the team should be brimming with confidence heading into Sunday’s game against
Sp*rs. No doubt they’ll be a much sterner test than what Fenerbahce, or Fulham
before, have posed. But if we can play with the confidence we’ve shown since
the opening day horror show, it could well be another memorable North London
Derby at the Emirates Stadium.