Arsenal in 17th straight Champions group stage

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 27, 2014 at 6:27 pm •  Published: August 27, 2014
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LONDON (AP) — Alexis Sanchez scored his first Arsenal goal, and the Gunners beat Besiktas 1-0 Wednesday night to reach the Champions League group stage for the 17th consecutive season.

The Bulgarian club Ludogorets reached the group stage for the first time when defender Cosmin Moti saved two penalty kicks in a 6-5 shootout win over 1986 champion Steaua Bucharest after goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was ejected in the 119th minute. Stoyanov had fouled Fernando Varela, who had broken in alone.

Because Ludogorets had used its three substitutes, Moti was moved into goal. The Romanian, who used to play for Steaua rival Dinamo Bucharest, wore the shirt of the team's backup goalkeeper and converted his team's first kick in the shootout. He then made saves to deny Paul Pirvulescu on Steaua's second shot and Cornel Rapa on its seventh.

Wanderson's 90th-minute goal had tied the aggregate 1-1, forcing extra time.

In London, Sanchez scored in first-half injury time to put Arsenal ahead following a 0-0 first leg last week in the home-and-home, total-goals series. The Chilean forward was acquired last month from Barcelona for 35 million pounds (then $60 million).

Arsenal finished a man short after defender Mathieu Debuchy was ejected in the 75th minute for his second yellow card, given for a foul on Mustafa Pektemek.

"It is a weight off our shoulders now because we can focus on the Premier League," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We feel we have done the job and we have a clear conscience."

The Gunners have been in the group stage every season since 1998-99, and Athletic Bilbao is back for the first time since then after beating Napoli 3-1 to advance on 4-2 aggregate.

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