[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE]It took a trip to the cauldron that is Istanbul's Sukru Saracoglu Stadium for Arsenal to forget its nightmare start to the English Premier League season. A 3-0 win over Fenerbahce in the first leg of their playoff series that all but assured the Gunners will return to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for a 17th straight season.
All three goals came in the second half. Aaron Ramsey scored one goal and set up Aaron Gibbs for another and Frenchman Oliver Giroud added a late penalty. The performance was a far cry from the 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at home to start the EPL campaign.
The one constant was the injury bug that has added to concerns about the depth of the Gunners' squad. A head injury forced French center back Laurent Koscielny to leave the game in the first half. On Saturday against Aston Villa, young forward Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain suffered knee ligament damage.
If Fener looked uninspired, it likely had nothing to gain from winning the playoff series. A decision is due next Wednesday on the club's appeal of UEFA's two-year ban from European ban for game-fixing, and few expect it to win.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport's affirmation of the UEFA ban would meant that Fenerbahce would be kicked out of the Champions League if it won the series.
UCL Playoffs, First Leg
Dinamo Zagreb 0 Austria Vienna 2
Fenerbahce 0 Arsenal 3
Ludogorets Razgrad 1 FC Basel 4
Schalke 04 1 PAOK 1
Steaua Bucharest 1 Legia Warsaw 1
Shakhter Karagandy 2 Celtic 0
Lyon 0 Real Sociedad 2
Pacos de Ferreira 1 Zenit St. Petersburg 4
PSV 1 AC Milan 1
Viktoria Plzen 3 NK Maribor 1