UEFA Champions League: Arsenal squeezes through
Bilbao ends 16-year wait to return to group stage
Alexis Sanchez scored his first Arsenal goal as the Premier League club held on with 10 men to squeeze past Besiktas 1-0 and qualify for the Champions League group stage for the 17th consecutive season.
The Chile striker, who joined from Barcelona in July for 35 million pounds (then $60 million), netted on the stroke of halftime in the playoff after a scoreless away leg.
Arsenal has 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 go through 4-2 on aggregate.
Malmo will be Sweden's first group stage representative in 14 years after beating Salzburg 3-0 to advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Bayer Leverkusen routed FC Copenhagen 4-0 after winning 3-2 away.
Giroud out 4 months following leg surgery
Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud will be sidelined for about four months after surgery to repair a broken left leg.
The French star sustained a small break to his tibia during Saturday's 2-2 tie against Everton in the Premier League, just seconds after he scored.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Wednesday that Giroud isn't likely to play until the end of December. The news was a setback for Arsenal, which Besiktas 1-0 Wednesday to reach the Champions League group stage for the 17th straight season.