Arsenal sweep past Fenerbahce thanks to Aaron Ramsey's two goals

There has been a little bit of muttering since Arsenal's opening day of the season disaster against Aston Villa that the team might be better off playing away from the Emirates Stadium, at least until the transfer window shuts.

The dissent here upon the 3-1 defeat was loud and unsettling; the result of the release of a wave of pent-up frustration.

Arsène Wenger's team have since stabilised, with excellent away wins over Fenerbahce in the first leg of this Champions League play-off and Fulham. The climate was consequently relaxed for Fenerbahce's visit and there was not even the call for Wenger to spend some money. One banner read: Wenger not Wonga.

Yet it nevertheless felt good to banish the ghosts of Villa in what amounted to a stroll into the Champions League proper. For the sixth time in eight years, the club have not come a cropper at the play-off round. They will enter the group phase draw on Thursday for the 16th season in succession. Only Real Madrid and Manchester United can boast similar streaks.

Wenger had complained of a sinister media plot to brainwash Arsenal's home fans, as though they were easily led and swing in the breeze, but it all was sweetness and light as Aaron Ramsey continued his early season swagger.

The midfielder's all-round game has picked up where it left off at the end of last season but now there are goals and two more gilded Arsenal's progress. The second was the show-stopper. From the substitute Kieran Gibbs's cut-back, Ramsey opened up his body to guide a volley into the far corner. The technique was flawless. "A year ago, he wouldn't have taken that chance the way that he did," Wenger said. "A year ago, people were questioning him. He is improving from week to week."

Wenger could talk up Arsenal's consistency in reaching the group stage as an achievement, even though he accepted that the club's ambitions were loftier, but his mood was tempered by the injuries that the team suffered. Lukas Podolski departed with a hamstring problem that will rule him out for at least three weeks while Jack Wilshere took a buffeting as Fenerbahce lashed out in the closing stages and Ramsey was forced off with a groin strain. Arsenal played out injury time with 10 men, Wenger having used his substitutes.

Fenerbahce had been almost laughably bad in the first leg and the natural assumption was that the tie had ended in Istanbul, at around the time that Olivier Giroud thumped home Arsenal's third away goal. Wenger, though, is not a man to take anything for granted. Having talked the talk about focus and the dangers of complacency, he started with virtually his strongest side. The derby with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday seemed a long way from his thoughts.

If the second leg still had a pulse, it did not last beyond the 25th minute. Santi Cazorla, such a delight in the No10 role, collected from Giroud and he moved the ball to Podolski, who played the killer pass for Theo Walcott. Fenerbahce were exposed, Caner Erkin tackled desperately and when the ball broke kindly for Ramsey, Arsenal's man of the moment swept low into the net.

Fenerbahce had their moments in the first half. There was a good deal of tutting when Wojciech Szczesny came a long way to miss a punch on the half-hour but the Arsenal goalkeeper ensured that his team led at the interval.

He had saved instinctively in the early going, after Bacary Sagna's slide tackle sent the ball into Raul Meireles and then spinning goalwards, and he also pawed Emmanuel Emenike's fierce drive on to his near post and away to safety. Emenike had turned Sagna too easily to rampage clear. Szczesny also denied Emenike at point-blank range, although the striker was offside. The former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, up in the crowd, looked inscrutable but he surely approved.

Arsenal's first-half regrets had taken in a couple of misses from Giroud but they suffered something worse in the first minute of the second half when Podolski tore down the left only to feel a muscle tear in the back of his left leg. After treatment and a rather ambitious attempt to hop off, he went back down and departed on a stretcher. Injuries are part and parcel of any season but the thinness of Arsenal's squad seems to magnify their impact.

There was a wackiness about Fenerbahce, from some of their tackles, which were wild, particularly late on, to Emenike's lamentable attempt to con the referee into giving him a penalty on 55 minutes. He was tumbling well before Szczesny, who had pulled out of his slide challenge, made minimal contact with him. Szczesny laughed. Emenike, who did at least look contrite, was booked.

Bruno Alves was bloodied by a stray elbow from Giroud but Cazorla and Wilshere absorbed full-blooded challenges which might, on another night, have led to serious problems. Wilshere, caught by Meireles in the 82nd minute, insisted that he played on and he would feel a hard check from Alves and a crunch from Gokhan Gonul. He steamed with anger and, although it was encouraging to see him stand up to the rough stuff, there may yet be an anxious wait on scan results.

Arsenal controlled the second half and they ought to have won by more. Volkan Demirel tipped Cazorla's low shot around the far post; Gibbs headed over when well-placed; Walcott's free-kick hit the crossbar and Carl Jenkinson was denied by the goalkeeper at close quarters. Ramsey, though, sent the crowd home happy.

Powered by article was written by David Hytner Emirates Stadium, for The Guardian on Tuesday 27th August 2013 21.51 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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