As far as Champions League qualifiers go, Arsenal had to go through a pretty nervy one against Besiktas in order to qualify for the competition’s group stages. After a 0-0 draw in Turkey last week, it was assumed that Arsenal would simply have too much quality for their opposition once they got to play them back at the Emirates Stadium. But the game proved a tight matchup once again in the second leg, as Arsenal eventually escaped with a narrow 1-0 victory to advance.
The goal was scored by Alexis Sanchez, and the Chilean was the difference on the night between the two teams in London. Besiktas troubled Arsenal in the first half, especially through Demba Ba who was a handful for the Arsenal center-backs to deal with. But as the game seemed like it was heading for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, Sanchez struck to give the Gunners the lead. It was a goal Sanchez himself needed just as much as the team did in the game.
It was Sanchez’s first goal since his big money move from Barcelona, and after a headline move like that, the last thing a striker needs is a long wait for the first goal for his new club. The pressure builds with each game that passes, and fortunately for Arsenal, Sanchez is off the mark now and it will be a weight off of his shoulders as he moves forward in the upcoming games.
It wasn’t just Sanchez’s goal which proved vital, though, as his work rate and desire proved invaluable in the final 15 minutes. Arsenal right-back Mathieu Debuchy was sent off for receiving a second yellow card, and due to Arsenal’s slender lead, the game became very tense for all involved.
Sanchez was effectively playing as a lone striker with every other Arsenal player behind the ball trying to hold on to the valuable lead. However, undeterred, Sanchez still chased every ball, won fouls, ran the channels and was a general nuisance to the Besiktas back line. He helped his team immensely, and though his goal is priceless now, it would have been worthless had Arsenal not held on to advance in the final stages of the game.
Arsenal did hold on well, though, to eventually secure a hard fought win. It was a win where their new signing, Sanchez, was the difference in more ways than one.