Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Arsenal reply to critics in style by crushing Fenerbahce

Arsenal's players celebrate after they scored a second goal during their Champions League qualifying playoffs, first leg soccer match with Fenerbahce at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.(AP Photo)
Arsenal's players celebrate after they scored a second goal during their Champions League qualifying playoffs, first leg soccer match with Fenerbahce at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.(AP Photo)
Fenerbahce's Pierre Webo, right, vies with Jack Wilshere of Arsenal during their Champions League qualifying playoffs, first leg soccer match at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.(AP Photo)
Fenerbahce's Pierre Webo, right, vies with Jack Wilshere of Arsenal during their Champions League qualifying playoffs, first leg soccer match at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.(AP Photo)
Arsenal's players celebrate after they scored a second goal during their Champions League qualifying playoffs, first leg soccer match with Fenerbahce at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.(AP Photo)
Arsenal's players celebrate after they scored a second goal during their Champions League qualifying playoffs, first leg soccer match with Fenerbahce at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.(AP Photo)

Fenerbahce 0 Arsenal 3: Arsenal dispelled the sense of crisis that had developed around them this week with an emphatic victory over Fenerbahce in the first leg of a potentially tricky Champions League play-off.

Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, has found himself under growing pressure since the 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa in their opening Premier League game on Saturday, but his side responded magnificently to the emergency by winning 3-0 in Istanbul.

The victory renders next Tuesday's return a virtual formality and puts Arsenal on the brink of the lucrative group stage. The only downside for Wenger was a nasty injury for centre-half Laurent Koscielny, who had to have a head wound stitched up after a high kick from Fenerbahce's Pierre Webo.

Arsenal were the better side in the first half and enjoyed plenty of possession without creating many clear-cut chances. The closest they came was when Olivier Giroud headed narrowly wide from a Tomas Rosicky cross.

Wenger's injury problems increased when Koscielny had to go off after being kicked in the face by Webo. That left the Arsenal manager remonstrating with the officials when Webo was only booked while Koscielny received stitches in the dressing room. He was later taken to hospital.

However, Arsenal's frustration was relieved when Kieran Gibbs gave them the lead six minutes after the restart, turning in Theo Walcott's low cross from the right at the far post after the winger had been released by a fine Jack Wilshere through ball.

Thirteen minutes later Aaron Ramsey made it two with a 20-yard shot and Giroud wrapped up matters with a penalty after Walcott had been tripped in the area.

"It wasn't the ideal start to the Premiership but we bounced back tonight," Ramsey said. "We played really well as a team. We've been under a lot of criticism of late but it was vital that we stayed switched on and got a great result here, which we did."

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