• Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbahce, Champions League Qualifying

Arsenal cruise into Champions League group stage

ESPN staff
August 27, 2013
Aaron Ramsey continued his recent good form with a brace against Fenerbahce © PA Photos

Arsenal secured a 16th successive campaign in the Champions League group stage with two strikes from Aaron Ramsey at the Emirates Stadium condemning Fenerbahce to a 5-0 aggregate defeat.

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 play-off 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.

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.

Arsenal's start was lacklustre and after 12 minutes their defence 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 centre-back - and found the arms of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Lukas Podolski lasted five minutes of the second half before succumbing to a hamstring injury © Getty Images

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.

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 steered the ball beyond the reach of Demirel to complete a comfortable win.

And while Wenger was pushed for news on potential transfers in his post-match press conference, the Frenchman preferred to pour praise on match-winner Ramsay.

"Ramsay is playing his best football, because he's improving every year," Wenger said. "He's a youngster and he's getting better and better. Confidence can be important, it's as simple as that. Maybe he feels more comfortable because he feels people trust him."

Arsenal's passage to the main draw of the Champions League on Thursday confirms they will compete in Europe's elite competition for a 16th successive season.

"I believe that at the top level, the most difficult is to be consistent," added Wenger. "Of course it's an achievement because if you look at the clubs in Europe who have done it, there are only three clubs that have done it in the whole of Europe.

"I hear a lot that it's not enough and I agree with that. But still it shows that we have been remarkably consistent. Our ambition is much higher than that and I take that on board from everybody."

Elsewhere, FC Basel completed a routine 2-0 victory over Ludogorets to advance 6-2 on aggregate, Austria Vienna go through despite a 3-2 home loss to Dinamo Zagreb and Steaua Bucharesti had to rely on away goals after theie 2-2 draw away at Legia warsaw.

Schalke 04 survived a scare at Paok FC, winning 3-2 to book their place 4-3 on aggregate.

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