Champions League

Arsenal advances to UCL group stage

Champions League: Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce highlights
Champions League: Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce highlights
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Aaron Ramsey's brace saw Arsenal ease into the Champions League group stage with a 2-0 second-leg win over Fenerbahce.

Ramsey's strong start to the season continued with a goal in each half of the second leg, his 26th-minute opener putting the tie beyond doubt before his brilliant finish from Theo Walcott's cross completed the rout.

The 22-year-old Wales midfielder has scored three goals in four appearances this season and impressed again as he sent Fenerbahce, overwhelmed 3-0 in the first leg in Istanbul last Wednesday, crashing out of Europe.

It was the Gunners' 12th victory in the 12 playoff matches they have faced in the competition. Now that Arsenal are guaranteed to be present in Thursday's draw for the group stage, manager Arsene Wenger can step up efforts to make new signings before the transfer window closes on Monday.

Wenger stated on Friday that the biggest draw to any potential new arrival is Champions League football and the Frenchman's hopes of capturing targets including Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria and Mesut Ozil will have improved. The victory came at a cost, however, as Lukas Podolski limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, placing his involvement in Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham in doubt.

GROUP STAGE BOUND

Review the best images from the Champions League's playoff round.

Jack Wilshere started at the expense of Tomas Rosicky after being rested on the bench for Saturday's 3-1 victory over Fulham and Nacho Monreal replaced Kieran Gibbs at left-back. There were worrying moments late in the game as Wilshere went down clutching his ankle - he has undergone repeated surgeries on the joint - and he was then viciously hacked down by Bruno Alves, but he finished the game.

Fenerbahce make six changes to the team taken apart at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium last Wednesday with striker Emmanuel Emenike selected ahead of Pierre Webo. Arsenal's start was lacklustre and after 12 minutes their defense was in a state of panic as Caner Erkin swept unchallenged into their area.

Carl Jenkinson arrived to break up play, but the ball squirted to Raul Meireles whose shot struck Bacary Sagna - once again operating as a makeshift defender - and found the arms of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Santi Cazorla, Wilshere and Olivier Giroud combined to create a chance for the Frenchman that was sent wide and high.

Pressure was beginning to build on Fenerbahce with Wilshere and Podolski spending more time on the ball and it was the Germany international that provided the initial burst that led to Arsenal's opener. Podolski found Walcott running across the area and when he was tackled, the ball slipped to Ramsey who drilled home an easy finish.

Ramsey, who has enjoyed a strong start to the season, then sought to turn provider only for Giroud to direct his pass straight at goalkeeper Volkan Demirel. Alves sent a Fenerbahce free-kick narrowly wide, but relief from the pressure was only brief as first Cazorla saw a shot deflected out of play and then Demirel flapped at a corner.

A powerful shot by Emenike was pushed onto the left post, but the first half should have finished with Arsenal pushing further head only for Giroud to miss a sitter. Podolski lasted just five minutes of the second half before his hamstring injury struck, forcing him to make way for Kieran Gibbs.

Cazorla forced a fingertip save from Demirel with 25 minutes remaining, but it had otherwise been a difficult spell for Arsenal as Fenerbahce enjoyed their strongest period. The increasingly influential Spaniard then struck the crossbar, before the Gunners finally delivered a second.

Walcott found space down the left, sped into the area and picked out Ramsey who expertly steered the ball beyond the reach of Demirel to complete a comfortable win.

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