Champions League: Fenerbahce 2-5 Arsenal

Arsène Wenger will enjoy his 59th birthday today. The Arsenal manager tends not to look back but when he reflects upon how his team dismantled Fenerbahce in front of their own boisterous supporters to move decisively towards qualification for the knockout phase, he will do so with pride.It was one of those evenings when Arsenal's cut and thrust blazed an eye-catching trail. Fenerbahce, abject in defence, will carry these scars for some time and will feel certainly feel them when they visit the Emirates Stadium in two weeks' time.Everything went right for Wenger, right down to his one surprise selection, Abou Diaby, who played instead of Robin van Persie, enjoying an excellent game. He marked his first start since April with Arsenal's third goal of a whirlwind first-half spell. The fervent crowd's stunned silence for long spells told its own story.Few teams emerge with anything from this part of Istanbul. Fenerbahce had not lost in 15 European ties going into last night's encounter, and if Arsenal needed a cautionary tale it could have been provided by Chelsea, beaten here last season in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final.Arsenal's tyros, though, entered the arena nervelessly and produced an early one-two combination-punch that had their opponents and the yellow-and-black hordes in the stands gasping for breath.Both goals were the epitome of simplicity and advertised glaring weaknesses in the Fenerbahce backline. Cesc Fabregas was the creator. First he sent Emmanuel Adebayor galloping through; indeed, the only player who threatened to get in the way of the striker was Theo Walcott. But Walcott, in an offside position, sensibly allowed Adebayor to stroll onto the pass and his finish was low and unerring.Fenerbahce were still reeling when Fabregas again carved them apart with a precision pass. This time Walcott was the beneficiary. Sidestepping the onrushing goalkeeper he squeezed home from a tight angle. Samir Nasri should have made it 3-0 moments later.This season's Fenerbahce is a different vintage to last. Under the management of Luis Aragonés, who replaced Zico - surprisingly sacked in the summer despite the club's glorious run in Europe - they have struggled in the league. With one point from their opening two Champions League group ties, they knew that a good result here was essential. Aragonés' popularity also needed a boost.His team rallied to reduce the arrears. Arsenal suffered a lapse in concentration from Ugur Boral's floated free-kick, allowing the unmarked Daniel Guiza to volley goalwards from the far post, the ball flicking home off Mikael Silvestre. Diaby, who revelled in an attacking role, doused any Fenerbahce joy at their goal. Charging onto a long ball, he felt the hapless Edu slip before shrugging off Claudio Maldonado and firing low into the far corner.Neither defence was comfortable, with Arsenal's unfamiliar central pairing of Alex Song and Silvestre struggling for cohesion. Manuel Almunia, Arsenal's captain for the night, made three smart first-half saves from Ugur, Semih and Guiza. With Fenerbahce showing flickers of menace, it did not feel as though 3-1 would allow Arsenal to relax. Minutes into the second half, however, they could do so as Fenerbahce contrived to shoot themselves in the foot in darkly comic circumstances. Fabregas's free-kick glanced off the head of Selcuk Sahin and cannoned into the face of one of his teammates before another, Gokhan Gonul, made a weak attempt to head clear. The ball dropped onto the right boot of Song and his volley swelled the far corner of the net.Fenerbahce did not let their heads drop. Almunia denied Guiza again and from the follow-up, Edu saw his shot scrambled off the line. Guiza did eventually get the goal his persistence deserved, after Song could not deal with a high ball, but by then, the occasion had fallen flat for Fenerbahce.The last word, fittingly, went to Arsenal. Emmanuel Eboué found the 17-year-old substitute, Aaron Ramsey, and his low shot from the edge of the area fizzed in off the far post for his first goal for the club.Champions LeagueArsenalFenerbahçeguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2008 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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