Arsenal: Szcsesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis
Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Rosicky, Coquelin, Podolski, Sanogo, Campbell
Arsenal qualified for the group stages of the Champions League after a battling 1-0 win over Besiktas at the Emirates this evening.
Arsene Wenger continued with Alexis in the main striking role, but added Santi Cazorla to the side in place of the suspended Aaron Ramsey while Laurent Koscielny came in for Calum Chambers at the centre of the defence.
The game began at a hectic pace with both sides pushing forward in the opening couple of minutes. Demba Ba had an early shot blocked while Arsenal looked to get down the right hand side with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Debuchy finding space.
The Gunners had the first clear chance of the game in the 9th minute. Alexis was fouled about 35 yards from goal, the referee played a great advantage and Wilshere took the ball on into the box but dragged his shot wide.
Moments later Cazorla had a chance to lob the keeper from distance after great closing down from Alexis but the ball went well wide, before Oxlade-Chamberlain’s bursting run down the right resulted in a dangerous cross which the visitors just managed to get clear.
Mathieu Debuchy picked up a 14th minute yellow card for a careless shoulder on Sahan as the visitors got back into the game after Arsenal’s bright start. Wojciech Szczesny had to be alert to claim a ball over the top for Ba right on the edge of his area, and the home side struggled to threaten.
A 24th minute free kick from Alexis represented a shot on target but it didn’t have the power to trouble Zengin, while Ozyakup and Kavlak picked up bookings for the Turkish side.
Debuchy had to save Arsenal’s bacon in the 34th minute with a crucial last ditch tackle inside the area, and at the other end Nacho Monreal fired a long shot over the bar. Besiktas were screaming for a penalty five minutes later when Motta went down in the box under a challenge from Wilshere but the referee, standing yards away, was having none of it as it looked as the player kicked the ground.
At the other end Wilshere lobbed a little pass to Alexis inside the box, but his first touch was a bit off and the keeper did enough to snuff out the danger. But it was a sign of things to come as the £30m man put the Gunners ahead in first half injury time.
Debuchy got down the right and put in a good cross which Besiktas failed to clear properly. The ball came to Wilshere, he ran it into the box, it came for the Chilean who sidefooted home from close range to give the Arsenal a 1-0 lead at the break.
Arsenal began the second period much like the first with a dangerous break down the right which almost presented a chance for Santi Cazorla, and the Spaniard had a go in the 51st minute, firing a ball across goal after superb work from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Ox was involved again providing Wilshere with the space to set up Alexis for a chance which almost doubled the lead, but his close range shot deflected out for a corner. The former Barcelona man tried again but saw his shot blocked when he might have set up Wilshere.
Former Arsenal man Ozyakup fired a 25 yard free kick over the bar after Koscielny had been penalised, before Debuchy headed a Cazorla set-piece into the side netting from a really tight angle.
There were hearts in red and white mouths when a mistake from Flamini allowed Demba Ba to shoot into the side netting, and with the nerves growing we looked a bit scared of what an away goal would mean.
However, Arsenal had two great chances to put the game to bed with Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain squandering brilliant opportunities to make it 2-0, before Debuchy picked up a second yellow card seconds later. It was harsh in the extreme as he won the ball but the referee still sent him off.
Arsenal made a change, putting on Chambers for Ozil, and the substitute was remarkably booked for coming onto the pitch too quickly and made do a re-entrance. The youngster then got involved more positively setting up a chance for Alexis who scooped it over the bar from around the penalty spot.
Besiktas pressed for the equaliser and Arsenal had to work extremely hard, none more so than Santi Cazorla who was everywhere. Demba Ba somehow missed a cross at the back post in the 89th minute to get the vital goal, while Arsenal continued to battle defensively as the referee made bonkers decisions time and time again.
In the end though, Arsenal ground out a massive result and showed some real character to do it – and they qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for the 17th successive season.
Phew, but hurrah!