LONDON – Arsenal held on with 10 men to draw 0-0 at Besiktas in the Champions League playoff round Tuesday, while Bayer Leverkusen is better placed to advance after winning 3-2 at FC Copenhagen.
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey was sent off with 10 minutes left in the first leg match in Istanbul after being shown a second yellow card for tugging Oguzhan Ozyakup’s shirt.
“For me it’s unbelievable to get the second yellow card when you see the kind of fouls they have made today it’s not serious,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Britain’s ITV television.
However, the London club, which has played in every group stage since the 1998-99 season, nearly grabbed a late winner when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot was turned onto the post.
The highest-scoring match of the night was in Denmark with Leverkusen holding the away goals advantage going into next Wednesday’s home leg. In the other matches, Athletic Bilbao tied 1-1 at Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg beat Malmo 2-1 and Steaua Bucharest beat Ludogorets Razgrad 1-0.
At the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, a familiar face nearly embarrassed Arsenal from the kickoff. Former Chelsea striker Demba Ba lobbed the ball from the halfway line and it was looping into the top corner until goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny pushed it onto the crossbar.
With striker Olivier Giroud failing to get an edge in front of goal and newly signed Alexis Sanchez denied by Tolga Zengin’s save before halftime, Arsenal rarely looked like it was capable of repeating its 3-0 victory across Istanbul against Fenerbahce in last year’s playoff round.
Besiktas came closest in the second half when Olcay Sahan curled a shot wide after breaking into the box. And, after Ramsey’s red card, Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic also saw red in a heated conclusion on the touchline.
“It’s one of the most physical games we have played in the Champions League,” Wenger said. “We had the chance to win the game, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it.”
Next week at the Emirates, although Ramsey will be suspended, Wenger is set to deploy German World Cup-winning trio Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski again after their break.
“Let’s win the game at home which we are capable of doing,” Wenger said.
In Copenhagen, Stefan Kiessling took just five minutes to put Leverkusen in front, but the hosts hit back with Mathias Jorgensen nodding in an equalizer from a corner and Daniel Amartey heading them in front in the 13th minute.
Parity was restored in the 31st when Karim Bellarabi knocked the ball into the net and Son Heung-Min secured Leverkusen’s valuable away win just before half time after meeting Hakan Calhanoglu’s throughball.