Arsenal vs. Besiktas: Winners and Losers from Champions League Game
Arsenal are through to the Champions League proper for a 17th consecutive season after a nervy 1-0 play-off win over Besiktas on Wednesday.
Alexis Sanchez, the Gunners' record signing, scored his first goal for the club with the last kick of the first half, but the hosts were forced to hang on for the result after Mathieu Debuchy was ejected in the 75th minute.
Besiktas, and Demba Ba in particular, had numerous chances to score but could simply not find a way through, although they may have been denied a pair of first-half penalties by referee Pedro Proenca.
Following are some of the winners and losers from the second leg at the Emirates Stadium.
Winner: Jack Wilshere, Who Played His Best Game of the Season
Jack Wilshere rose to the occasion in Aaron Ramsey's absence.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the 22-year-old never stopped driving Arsenal forward, and following Mathieu Debuchy's ejection, he committed himself to the defensive side of the ball as well.
But his most important contribution on Wednesday was his work in the build-up to the Alexis Sanchez goal, in which he brought the ball into the goalmouth, passed to Mesut Ozil and then allowed Sanchez to accept the return.
The Chilean made no mistake with his finish inside the far corner.
But Wilshere admitted he was fortunate not to concede a penalty during the game, and was quoted by Sky Sports as saying: "I think I did (make contact), but that is up to the referee. I slipped as he tried to put the ball into the box. I thought the referee did a good job tonight on the whole."
Loser: Pedro Proenca, Who Made Several Dubious Decisions
Besiktas will feel aggrieved that they weren't awarded two first-half penalties, although Mathieu Debuchy did seem to successfully poke the ball off Mustafa Pektemek before bringing down the attacker in the 34th minute.
But referee Pedro Proenca also had a decision to make seven minutes later when Jack Wilshere seemed to foul Ramon Motta inside Arsenal's 18-yard box. Once again he allowed play to continue.
Proenca then brought the cards out with regularity in the second half, showing six after the restart and nine in total.
His most bizarre booking was on Arsenal substitute Calum Chambers, who went into his book upon coming onto the pitch to replace Mesut Ozil before receiving permission from the fourth official.
Winner: Alexis Sanchez, Who Scored His 1st Goal for Arsenal
All the talk in and around the Emirates Stadium this week has involved strikers—a conversation that became more intense following Olivier Giroud's leg injury suffered at Everton.
But on Wednesday, Alexis Sanchez proved he is capable of leading the line for Arsenal, and in first-half stoppage time, he opened his Gunners account with a delicate finish to the far corner.
Overall, the Chile international put in an impressive performance against Besiktas, taking five shots and completing 82 percent of his passes—most of which came in the high-risk area of the attacking third (statistics courtesy WhoScored.com).
Loser: Demba Ba, Who Simply Couldn’t Finish
Demba Ba had a pair of high-quality goalscoring chances in the first leg against Arsenal, but if he ended up ruing those, he’ll certainly have trouble sleeping after failing to find the back of the net again on Wednesday.
Capitalising on a giveaway in the Arsenal goalmouth, the Senegal striker could only hit the side netting, and in the 89th minute, he couldn't quite connect with a header after beating Per Mertesacker at the far post.
But for better finishing, Besiktas might well have won this tie, and in that regard, the 29-year-old let them down.
Winner: Atiba Hutchinson, Who Kept Things Mostly Tidy for the Guests
Atiba Hutchinson returned to the Besiktas lineup after missing the first leg of this play-off due to injury, and straight away, he helped prevent a series of Arsenal chances.
Two of them came after good work from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose crosses were repeatedly turned away by the Canada international.
Hutchinson, 31, provided a mostly reliable shield in front of the Besiktas defence and also completed an impressive 92 percent of his passes at the Emirates.
Loser: Mathieu Debuchy, Who Lived Dangerously and Lost
Overall, Mathieu Debuchy put in quite a good shift on Wednesday night.
He prevented a goalscoring opportunity late in the first half when he tackled Mustafa Pektemek inside his own 18-yard box (one of the controversial non-penalty decisions), and he also managed to dispossess Demba Ba on more than on occasion.
The Frenchman also combined well with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right, and the two could well develop a lethal partnership going forward.
But Debuchy also lived on the edge against Besiktas.
He received his first yellow card after just 14 minutes for a foul on Oguzhan Ozyakup, and with a quarter-hour remaining, he was sent off after pulling Pektemek to ground.
Had Arsenal proceeded to give up a goal, he would have been one of the players held responsible.