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Party time at last for PSV

Published: Thursday 25 November 2004, 14.01CET
PSV Eindhoven ended their UEFA Champions League hoodoo as Arsenal FC showed a steely side.
Published: Thursday 25 November 2004, 14.01CET

Party time at last for PSV

PSV Eindhoven ended their UEFA Champions League hoodoo as Arsenal FC showed a steely side.

By Mark Chaplin in Eindhoven

Whenever Arsenal FC hit top stride, switching elegantly through the attacking gears and swatting aside all-comers with a swaggering finality, their fans like to describe the entertainment as "Wengerball", in homage to the Londoners' urbane French coach.

Stern resistance
A "Wengerball" moment brought them Thierry Henry's outstanding leveller on the half-hour after André Ooijer's early header had put PSV in front in this full-blooded Group E tussle. But it was stern late resistance that gave Arsenal a deserved point after being reduced to nine men when Lauren and Patrick Vieira were red-carded after the interval. Arsenal's UEFA Champions League fate remains in their hands.

PSV through
The draw was ultimately sufficient for PSV to seal a long-awaited place in the knockout stages. The announcement at the end that the other group match between Rosenborg BK and Panathinaikos FC had also finished level led to rejoicing on and off the field.

Full house
They locked the stadium doors in Eindhoven - a Champions League first in this bustling Dutch city - with most of the 35,100 fans present hoping to see PSV put paid to a hoodoo and reach the competition's later stages after eight seasons of hand-wringing frustration.

Miserly defence
PSV's defence has been posed minimal problems in domestic action this season - a miserly five goals conceded in 13 league outings. But Arsenal are clearly another matter, and early watchfulness was in Dutch minds given the memory of a 4-0 drubbing in the teams' last encounter here in 2002, when PSV were kicking off again after a mere 25 seconds.

Oiijer opener
The home side almost fared as badly this time around - Fredrik Ljungberg was foiled by last-ditch PSV cover inside 40 seconds. Yet Dutch jitters were soon settled by a goal joyously received by the masses. Arsenal's lax near-post marking was punished by Oiijer's emphatic header from a Mark van Bommel corner.

Superb equaliser
Stung into action, Arsenal counterattacked dangerously. Thierry Henry hit the side-netting after robbing Wilfred Bouma but that "Wengerball" moment was not far away. It was sudden and superb. Henry passed to Ljungberg in the area - a brilliant back-heeled return pass, and the Frenchman's finish was decisive. For PSV, a stunning reminder of the difference between cosy domestic weekends and tough European evenings.

Tension
It was sturdy stuff on a chilly evening - although hearts were warmed by the sight of a "PSV Fans Against Racism" banner. PSV's muscular resilience provided a contrast to Arsenal's measured approach, and the game's ebb and flow persisted after the break. The tension was reflected in the crowd growing quieter after their early clamour.

Lauren dismissed
But the noise returned when Arsenal's Robin van Persie - recently of Feyenoord and once a youth player here - made his entrance to a searing chorus of boos. More commotion followed straight afterwards. Lauren flattened Young-Pyo Lee, and the Arsenal defender was walking off for a second caution.

Vieira follows
Ten-man Arsenal reacted positively, Henry's pulsating run and shot a statement of intent. But they were soon down to nine. Vieira scythed down Ji-Sung Park, German referee Herbert Fandel reached for red again, and now the visitors faced a daunting last 12 minutes. There was no thought of "Wengerball" now. Sheer survival was the order of the day. PSV went voraciously for the kill but the depleted Gunners now added grim steel to their obvious skill.

Party time
The final whistle brought glad tidings from Norway - it was suddenly party time for the locals in Eindhoven - while Arsenal will party themselves if they overcome Rosenborg at Highbury.

Last updated: 26/11/04 14.17CET

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