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Football: Wenger says Besiktas draw fair but furious with referee

Published on Aug 20, 2014 6:36 AM
Arsenal's coach Arsene Wenger is pictured during the first leg of their Champions League qualifying soccer match against Besiktas at Ataturk Olympic stadium in Istanbul on Aug 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (AFP) -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged that his side's goalless draw with Besiktas in a Champions League play-off in Istanbul on Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014, was a fair result for a "difficult" game but blasted the performance of the referee.

The Serbian referee Milorad Mazic sent off Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey for a second bookable offence, neither of which an angry Wenger said were justified.

"I think not the first nor the second yellow card was deserved for Ramsey," Wenger told reporters.

"When you see some of the fouls committed and you go home with a red card for Ramsey it is somewhat unbelievable.

"In the second half the performance of the referee was very bad," he said, noting that infringements by Besiktas went unpunished.

Wenger - whose 100 per cent 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 per cent".

Asked how he felt with the result, Wenger said he thought it a fair outcome from a tough game.

"We always want to win, but look, Besiktas could have won the game and maybe we could have won.

"Maybe a draw is a fair result as both teams had chances to win the game."

On the return leg in London, he said: "We know that Besiktas is a good team, we know the game will be tight, but task is clear."

Wenger expressed admiration for Slaven Bilic's side. "We faced a very good Besiktas team tonight. Their commitment was fantastic."

The Croatian was himself sent to the stands in the dying minutes for protesting at a failure to penalise an Arsenal player for a foul on one of his team but expressed satisfaction with the result.

"It was a great game of football; it was not a dull 0-0. I am really proud of my players, they stuck to their plan," Bilic said. "From my point of view we were closer to beating them. We did not score from our chances but I have nothing against my players, they were fantastic all of them."

"I was really hoping we could win this game," added the 45-year-old former Croatia national coach.

Bilic expressed optimism that his side could spring an upset on the return leg in London.

"If we play like this we are capable of creating chances against any team," he said.

"We are going to go to London not just for shopping in Harrods but we are going to go to fulfil - some would say our dream - I would say our plan.

"We are full of confidence, we have a great atmosphere in the team," added Bilic, who had a spell as a player playing for London-based West Ham.

Bilic said he had apologised to the referee at the end of the game for the argument that saw him sent off but insisted he had not misbehaved.

"It was not swearing, I was just unhappy and after the game I apologised. Maybe I over-reacted, my mistake, nothing serious happened," he said.