Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0
( Sanchez 45 )

Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal for the Gunners since his summer signing from Barcelona, a goal which took the edge off a tense night in North London where Besiktas threatened to wreck Arsene Wenger’s Champions League ambitions. Sanchez, a £35 million capture from the Catalan side was on the end of a move instigated by Jack Wilshere on the stroke of half time to slot home and score the opening goal in both ties. Santi Cazolra, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere had chances to see off the game, but when Mathieu Debuchy was shown a second yellow card with 15 minutes remaining, Besiktas piled on the pressure, but the Arsenal defence was not to be breached. Wenger later revealed that Olivier Giroud will be out for up to four months with a broken tibia but refused to comment on any striker signing ahead of the closing of the summer transfer window.

Wenger was full of praise for Sanchez’s evening’s work. “He had a good game, not only on the technical side but on the fighting side. He was mobile, dangerous and has shown as well he has great fighting spirit, qualities that will be very important in the Premier League.

” But overall I feel we produced a performance we wanted on the technical side, on the tactical side and on the mental side. We were at the level that was requested tonight against a good team but we couldn’t finish the game off and that of course ( made it ) very difficult for us in the last 10 minutes when we were down to ten men.

Aaron Ramsey was suspended for the return leg after he was sent off last week in Istanbul. Wenger elected to play Mathieu Flamini in front of the defence and Santi Cazorla alongside Wilshere with Mesut Özil and Oxlade-Chamberlain wide. Sanchez was again asked to play the lone striker. Debuchy was at right back, with Per Mertersacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal completing the Gunners’ defence.

Early chances fell to Wilshere who struck his effort wide after play was allowed continue despite Sanchez being fouled in the build up, and a wayward clearance by keeper Tolga Zengin was instinctively hit back by Cazorla, but wide of the target.

Besiktas however were not going to lie down, and proved to be an adept unit, passing the ball and trying to get some service up to Demba Ba. They were furious when denied a first half penalty as Wilshere clattered into Ramon Motta, their appeals waved away by referee Pedro Proenca.

Sanchez looked lively as did Cazorla who seems to have added a substantial defensive steel to his game, and that became evident as the evening progressed.

Just on the stroke of half time, Arsenal took the lead. Wilshere played a neat one two with Özil and as he was about to take the return, Sanchez popped up in a better position to his right with a low shot, which went in under Zengin.

Besiktas were earlier aggrieved when Debuchy slid in on Mustafa Pektemek but were also denied a penalty on that occasion, but Debuchy having earlier been yellow carded, was harshly adjudged to have fouled Pektemek, with replays showing that he had made initial contact with the ball.

Still, Arsenal had chances to put the game out of sight, Debuchy headed wide from a corner, and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who having done all the hard work seemed to run out of steam when faced with only Zengin from eight yards. The Arsenal man only managing a lame shot at the Besiktas keeper. Ba had hit the side netting, and as Besiktas swept forward, the former Newcastle and Chelsea striker was inches away from getting his head onto a dangerous cross.

Wenger continued, “We wanted to qualify and we did it against a very good team. You must give credit to Besiktas when you look at their results in pre-season, you understand why they beat all the teams they met until now because they are a close unit, well organised, physically very strong and technically very good. We kept Ba quiet tonight – he had one chance on the header that was close to the end – that would have killed us but apart from that I thought we kept him quiet tonight.

After a few scares, Arsenal prevailed and will now be in the Champions League group stages for a 17th consecutive time.