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Arsenal hammers Fenerbahce 3-0 in Champions League qualifier

Photo: AP

Arsenal celebrates after Aaron Ramsey's goal gave the Gunners a 2-0 lead over Fenerbahce.

GENEVA (AP) -- Arsenal answered its early-season critics with a high-class 3-0 win at Fenerbahce in a Champions League playoff first-leg match on Wednesday.

Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored in the second half to face down a noisy crowd in Istanbul, plus hostile media and Gunners fans at home after an offseason of failed transfer deals for the cash-rich club.

Under-fire manager Arsene Wenger now looks all but certain to lead his team into the Champions League group stage for the 16th straight season after the return match next Tuesday.

Away teams dominated Wednesday, as Swiss champion Basel won 4-2 in Bulgaria against Ludogorets Razgrad and Austria Vienna won 2-0 at Dinamo Zagreb.

Schalke drew 1-1 at home to PAOK Thessaloniki and it was also 1-1 between Steaua Bucharest and Legia Warsaw.

Arsenal's dominating performance almost made irrelevant the pre-match speculation of chaos awaiting UEFA if Fenerbahce advanced while appealing a two-year Champions League expulsion over a 2011 Turkish match-fixing case.

That appeal verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport is scheduled next Wednesday, when Arsenal will likely be thinking of the next day's 32-team group stage draw in Monaco.

Arsenal's neat passing impressed from the start though Giroud and Ramsey spurned its only half-chances before the break. The visitors lost defender Laurent Koscielny to a nasty-looking kick in the face from Fenerbahce forward Pierre Webo, who was booked.

Yet Wenger's players, who lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa on the Premier League opener Saturday, surged on and defender Gibbs struck in the 51st when connecting with Theo Walcott's slick pass across the goalmouth.

Ramsey's 22-meter (yard) shot in the 64th slipped under Fenerbahce goalkeeper Volkan Demirel's diving grasp, add Walcott earned a penalty by drawing a foul from defender Michal Kadlec.

Giroud fired the 77th-minute spot kick decisively to Demirel's right, and Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny preserved the clean sheet with excellent late saves.

PAOK thrived on its reprieve by UEFA, having already lost this month to Metalist Kharkiv which was then disqualified for fixing a Ukrainian league match in 2008.

The Greek side earned a 1-1 draw in Germany when Miroslav Stoch leveled in the 73rd to cancel Peru forward Jefferson Farfan's perfectly placed low shot for Schalke in the 32nd.

Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah starred for Basel, scoring twice and earning a late penalty.

Ludogorets, which was playing semi-professional, third-tier football three years ago, leveled Salah's 12th-minute opener when Brazilian midfielder Marcelinho scored in the 23rd. The Bulgarians led in the 50th through Ivan Stoyanov's low shot after two teammates failed to connect with a cross.

Salah leveled in the 59th and, five minutes later, Giovanni Sio made it 3-2 for Basel when exploiting more gaps in the home side's defense. Junior Caicara was sent off for fouling Salah in the box, and defender Fabian Schaer converted the 84th-minute penalty.

Dinamo also finished with 10 men. Forward Ante Rukavina was shown a red card in the 71st, three minutes after Marin Leovac put Austria Vienna ahead.

Marko Stankovic made it 2-0 to the Austrians in the 75th.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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