Fenerbahçe will have a mountain to climb to reach the group stages of the Champions League after being crushed 0-3 by an efficient Arsenal at their caldron of Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium in the first leg of the playoffs.
The Gunners with second-half goals from Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud on penalty buried the Yellow Canaries’ hopes on returning among the European football elite after a very successful Europa League run last year.
Both team were looking to bounce back after poor league debuts during the last weekend and were threatened with the wrath of their fans in case of another bad performance.
The first half was more charged politically than football-wise as Fenerbahçe fans chanted Gezi protest slogans during the 34th minute – symbolically referring to Istanbul’s plate number.
The breakthrough after a dull opening half arrived in the 51st minute when Ramsey played in Theo Walcott down the right wing and the winger’s cross was allowed to reach Gibbs who crashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Ramsey then scored a fortunate second goal with 24 minutes left when Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Volkan Demirel, who was the team’s savior during the preliminary round games against Red Bull Salzburg, inexplicably allowed a routine shot from outside the box slip under his hands.
Giroud then planted a confident penalty in the top left hand corner after Michal Kadlec brought down Walcott on 77 minutes that has virtually put the tie beyond doubt.
The African power trio Moussa Sow, Pierre Webo and Emanuel Emenike who came from the bench
rarely threatened the Arsenal goal and Arsène Wenger’s team cruised for an unexpectedly easy victory in Istanbul.
The second leg is set for Tuesday Aug. 27 at the Emirates Stadium.