Early Doors

Former Chelsea and Newcastle star hits Arsenal crossbar from kickoff

Early Doors

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Demba Ba nearly scored one of the great goals in Champions League history at the start of Besiktas and Arsenal's play-off first leg in Istanbul.

Ba, who joined the Turkish club from Chelsea in the transfer, got hold of the ball from kick-off and launched a majestic drive towards goal.

Wojciech Szczesny, the Arsenal keeper, was backtracking but just about managed to get a fingertip to the ball, helping it on to the crossbar.

The match was five seconds old.

It would have been some strike, for several reasons. You see Ba, 29, has history with Arsenal.

The Senegal striker almost joined the Gunners from Newcastle two years ago, instead ending up at Chelsea, where he was little more than a glorified stop-gap.

Six months after arriving at Stamford Bridge, Ba again nearly moved to the Emirates, but Jose Mourinho blocked the move because the Gunners' signing of Mesut Ozil had, in his mind, made them competitors for the Premier League title.

“I always said the move to Arsenal was close. I thought the deal was done and I would just go and do the medical, but it went another way.

“Jose has said why it didn’t happen. He was honest, he just didn’t want to give them a striker who could score goals, especially with the arrival of Ozil.

“Now I am playing Arsenal in such a big match. It’s crazy but I’ve no regret on everything that happened.”

Nothing really changed for Ba at the Bridge. He was third choice for the Blues, usually sitting on the bench, despite scoring several important goals, including winners against Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool late last season.

At least in Turkey he is number one - he has scored three goals in two matches for Besiktas and, having joined for £8m, will be first choice for the Black Eagles.

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