Arsenal Wins 3-0 to Close in on Champions League Group Stage

Arsenal won 3-0 at Fenerbahce to close on a 16th consecutive appearance in the group stage of soccer’s Champions League.

Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored in the second half last night in Istanbul for Arsenal, which hosts the second match of the two-game playoff Aug. 27 in London.

“We played in a very, very heated atmosphere against a good team but we had a proactive attitude from the first minute on,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in a post-match news conference. “We did not come in shaking but came in resolute and determined and with a desire to take the game to them.”

Austria Vienna and Basel were also victorious on a night in which none of the five home teams won. Vienna beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 and Basel defeated Ludogorets Razgrad 4-2.

Schalke and PAOK drew 1-1, as did Steaua Bucharest and Legia Warsaw. Vienna, Basel, PAOK and Legia also will host the return matches, with the series winners advancing into the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition.

Arsenal rebounded from a 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa in its English Premier League opener five days ago with a dominating second-half performance.

The Gunners broke through six minutes after the break as Ramsey slid a pass into the penalty area for Theo Walcott. The winger sent a sent a low cross toward the far post, which Gibbs put into the roof of the net.

Ramsey doubled the lead in the 64th minute with a low shot from 25 yards out (22 meters), which goalkeeper Volkan Demirel could only get a hand to. Giroud then closed the scoring from the penalty spot with 13 minutes remaining after Walcott was taken down by Michal Kadlec.

Arsenal has won all five of its previous Champions League playoff series, outscoring its opponents 24-3 in the 10 matches.

Basel Wins

Mohamed Salah scored twice to lead Basel past Ludogorets in Sofia, Bulgaria. Giovanni Sio and Fabian Schar also scored for Basel. Marcelinho and Ivan Stoyanov got goals for Ludogorets, which had Junior Caicara red-carded in the 83rd minute.

Marin Leovac and Marko Stankovic scored seven minutes apart in the second half to give Austria Vienna the win in Zagreb. Dinamo played the final 19 minutes a man down after Ante Rukavina was shown a red card for a high challenge seconds after coming on as a substitute.

Miroslav Stoch’s goal in the 73rd minute gave PAOK the away draw in Germany with Schalke, which got a first-half score from Jefferson Farfan. PAOK is in the playoff after Metalist Kharkiv, which beat the Greek club in the previous round, was last week disqualified by European soccer governing body UEFA for its link to a match-fixing case.

Legia Warsaw also scored in the second half to claim an away draw in Bucharest. Federico Piovaccari gave 1986 European champion Steaua the lead in the 34th minute before Jakub Kosecki answered for Legia eight minutes into the second half.

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