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Sánchez sends Arsenal through

Arsenal FC 1-0 Beşiktaş JK (agg: 1-0)
Alexis Sánchez scored his first goal for Arsenal to fire his side into the group stage of the UEFA Champions League at Beşiktaş's expense.

Arsenal match winner Alexis Sánchez takes the plaudits from Santi Cazorla
Arsenal match winner Alexis Sánchez takes the plaudits from Santi Cazorla ©Getty Images

Arsenal FC reach UEFA Champions League group stage for 17th successive season
Alexis Sánchez scores first goal for Arsenal with virtually last kick of first half
Gunners full-back Mathieu Debuchy is sent off on 76 minutes
Beşiktaş step up pressure in second half, but Arsenal hold firm
Istanbul side enter UEFA Europa League having last played in competition in 2011/12

Alexis Sánchez's goal on the stroke of half-time was enough to decide a tightly contested UEFA Champions League play-off and send Arsenal into the group stage at Beşiktaş's expense with a 1-0 aggregate victory.

With so much at stake after a goalless first leg in Istanbul, both teams began cautiously and there were few clear-cut opportunities. Arsenal's first arrived in the ninth minute when Jack Wilshere burst into the area, only to shoot wide. With Olivier Giroud injured, Sánchez started in the central striker's role yet struggled to make an impact early on, coming closest with a 24th-minute free-kick which Tolga Zengin in the Beşiktaş goal gathered comfortably.

Beşiktaş, meanwhile, were menacing on the break, Mustafa Pektemek, Olcay Şahan and Demba Ba keeping the Arsenal defence alert and home fans on the edge of their seats. Sánchez had threatened from a tight angle on 42 minutes, then moments before half-time the Chilean got his first Gunners goal since his summer move from FC Barcelona. After neat passing between Mesut Özil and Wilshere on the edge of the box, the England international touched Özil's pass on to Sánchez who fired in low from ten metres.

Arsenal picked up where they had left off after the restart, Sánchez forcing Tolga into an excellent stop on 53 minutes. After a cagey opening the game was opening up and Debuchy did well to steal the ball from Ba as Beşiktaş pressed, before heading narrowly wide at the other end as Arsenal looked to double their lead. With 16 minutes to play Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missed a glorious close-range chance to make the tie safe, and when Debuchy was dismissed for a second yellow card soon after, Arsenal were under pressure. They held on, though, to reach the group stage once again.

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