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Thursday August 22, 2013 MYT 7:13:48 AM
Thursday August 22, 2013 MYT 7:13:48 AM
by brian homewood
Fenerbahce's goalkeeper Volkan Demirel (L) saves a high ball during their Champions League qualifying match against Arsenal in Istanbul August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
BERNE (Reuters) - Arsenal, aiming for a 16th successive group stage appearance, outclassed Fenerbahce 3-0 in Istanbul to take control of their Champions League playoff tie as the five home teams failed to muster a win between them in Wednesday's first leg matches.
Schalke 04 were held 1-1 at home by Greek side PAOK, Egyptian 21-year-old Mohamed Salah scored twice to lead FC Basel to a 4-2 win at Ludogorets Razgad and Austria Vienna, who have never reached the group stage, won 2-0 at 10-man Dinamo Zagreb.
Dinamo had substitute Ante Rukavina sent off by referee Howard Webb for a dangerous challenge on an opponent less than one minute after coming on to the field.
Steaua Bucharest, the only former champions in action on Wednesday, were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Legia Warsaw.
Arsenal travelled to Turkey under a cloud and with questions over manager Arsene Wenger's lack of activity in the transfer market after opening their Premier League campaign with a 3-1 home defeat by Aston Villa on Saturday.
But the English side, who won 5-2 on a previous visit five years ago, again proved far too strong for a poor Fenerbahce side and, although they had nothing to show for their dominance in the first half, the goals flowed after the break.
Kieran Gibbs turned in Theo Walcott's low cross in the 51st minute before Aaron Ramsey scored with a 20-metre shot which eluded keeper Volkan Demiral and Oliver Giroud completed the scoring with a penalty.
Fenerbahce were banned from the European competition over a domestic match-fixing case but re-admitted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) pending an appeal.
The decision is due to be announced by CAS on August 28, one day after the second leg when the Turkish side will almost certainly be out of the competition in any case.
PAOK Salonika coach Huub Stevens saw his side fall behind to a first-half goal from Peru striker Jefferson Farfan as he returned to Schalke where he had two stints in charge, the second ending last December.
But his side, having survived a torrid end to the first half, levelled with Miroslav Stoch's curling shot in the 73rd minute.
The Greeks, however, still have a tough task as their home leg will be played behind closed doors following crowd trouble against Rapid Vienna a year ago.
"It is a pity that it will be without fans because football should be played for the fans. Schalke remain the favourites," Stevens, aiming to lead PAOK to the group stage for the first time, told reporters.
Basel went ahead in Bulgaria as Salah ran on to Fabian Frei's pass and drilled the ball past Vladislav Stoyanov.
The Bulgarians turned the tables as Brazilian Marcelinho and Ivan Stoyanov scored either side of halftime, only for Basel, Swiss champions for the last four seasons, to rally impressively.
Salah equalised with another deft finish in the 59th minute before Ivorian Giovanni Sio, signed by Basel on Saturday, turned in Valentin Stocker's flick and Fabian Schaer converted a penalty.
Austria Vienna boosted their hopes of reaching the group stage for the first time with a smash-and-grab in Zagreb.
The Croatian champions dominated the first half but Marin Leovac fired Austria ahead with a left-footed drive from a narrow angle in the 68th minute and Marko Stankovic's rasping shot from 20 metres put them in a commanding position.
"We played very well overall and, having had a bit of luck in the first half, we took our chances in the second but we can take nothing for granted," Austria coach Nenad Bjelica told Croatian television.
In Bucharest, Federico Piovaccari gave 1986 European champions Steaua a first-half lead but Legia Warsaw, whose only previous group stage appearance was in 1995/96, hit back when Jakub Kosecki swept in a cross early in the second half.
(Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic and Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Sonia Oxley)
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