ISTANBUL – Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger described the sending off of Aaron Ramsey as “unacceptable” after his side picked up a 0-0 draw at Besiktas in the first leg of their Uefa Champions League soccer play-off on Tuesday night.
Wenger slated referee Milorad Mazic for his handling of a fiery game which ended with a spectator throwing a bottle at the Arsenal manager as he left the pitch after the game.
The Gunners, who are aiming to reach the Champions League group stages for a 17th consecutive season, toiled for long periods in the first half at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium but went desperately close as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the post in the closing stages.
Wenger’s side will now need to get the job done at the Emirates next week, when they are expected to have German World Cup-winning trio Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski back, but they will have to do it without talisman Ramsey.
The 23-year-old Welshman picked up his second yellow for pulling back former Gunners midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup, but Wenger felt referee Mazic, who also received criticism for some of his performances at the World Cup, made a strange decision.
Ramsey was sent off after 80 minutes for two yellow-carded tackles, which Wenger described as “unbelievable”, and Besiktas manager Slaven Bilic followed him into the stands after venting his anger at the officials.
“As I left the pitch a bottle or something was thrown at me,” said Wenger. “I reported the incident to Uefa.”
But he was more angry at having to play the second leg at the Emirates on Wednesday without midfielder Ramsey and possibly skipper Mikel Arteta, who left the ground wearing a surgical boot after turning his ankle in a challenge missed by Serbian Mazic.
“In the second half the performance of the referee was very bad,” said Wenger.
“It was a very bad challenge but the referee was on the pitch and didn’t make anything of it. It’s very difficult to understand.
“It’s not serious to get the second yellow card when you see the kind of fouls they have made today,” Wenger told Sky Sports.
Although he was annoyed about Saturday’s matchwinner against Crystal Palace being dismissed, Wenger acknowledged the part played by Slaven Bilic’s well-drilled outfit.
“It was a difficult game, played at a good pace, a frenetic pace, from the first to the last minute and we could have won it,” he added.
“We had chances to win the game, but we couldn’t do it.
“They had chances as well in the first half especially, but in the end we didn’t lose the game and hopefully we’ll make it at home.”
Another potential headache for the Arsenal boss ahead of that second leg could be Arteta after the Spaniard went off after 50 minutes with an apparent ankle injury.
But Wenger still insisted that the Gunners are the ones in the driving seat.
“Our target is to play better every game,” Wenger added.
“Technically we can do better, and will aim to do so in the next game.”
Wenger – whose 100 percent win record in Champions League play-off matches came to an end after 12 wins in 12 – described the game as a “difficult match played at a high pace” and praised the opposition for playing at “100 percent”.
“Maybe a draw is a fair result as both teams had chances to win the game.” — Sky Sports