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Arsenal in 17th straight Champions group stage

Created: 08/30/2014 5:21 PM
By: ROB HARRIS

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.

Malmo will be Sweden's first group stage representative in 14 years after beating Salzburg 3-0 to advance 4-2. Bayer Leverkusen routed Copenhagen 4-0 for a 7-2 win.

The draw is Thursday.

In Spain, Marek Hamsik put Napoli in front two minutes into the second half with a low strike but host Bilbao struck back in the second half with three goals in 13 minutes. Aritz Arduiz scored twice and Ibai Gomez got the third to stun Napoli coach Rafa Benitez, who managed Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League title.

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American defender Geoff Cameron left Stoke's 3-0 win over Portsmouth in the 37th minute after appearing to pull a leg muscle.

Cameron, who impressed during the World Cup, was making his first appearance of the season for Stoke.

Premier League teams Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers followed Manchester United in getting knocked out by lower-tier clubs.

A day after United's 4-0 loss at MK Dons, another third-tier club, Leyton Orient, won 1-0 at Aston Villa, and fourth-tier Burton defeated QPR by the same score.

Several Premier League sides will be facing lower-ranking opponents in the third round. Chelsea was drawn against Bolton, Liverpool against Middlesbrough, defending champion Manchester City against Sheffield Wednesday, and Tottenham against Nottingham Forest.

In all-Premier League encounters, Arsenal hosts Southampton, Everton travels to Swansea, West Bromwich Albion plays Hull, and Crystal Palace takes on Newcastle.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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