John Carew took Valencia CF into the quarter-finals as his two goals either side of Thierry Henry's equaliser left the Spanish side as Group B winners - and ended Arsenal FC's campaign. The visitors only needed a draw to advance, but Valencia produced a positive display to keep up their record of never failing to progress through a UEFA Champions League group.
Valencia coach Rafael Benítez fielded an attacking lineup in the absence of the suspended midfield player Rubén Baraja. Pablo Aimar supported a forward pairing of Carew and Juan Sánchez, and Vicente Rodríguez replaced the injured Kily González. Arsenal had several absentees, notably goalkeeper David Seaman. Stuart Taylor kept goal in front of a defence containing Kolo Touré at left-back and Sol Campbell, who was risked along with Patrick Vieira.
Arsenal began with clear attacking intent, Henry forcing a save from Santiago Cañizares in the opening minute. Another similar effort and block followed soon afterwards, as the Frenchman's pace and dynamism shone throughout the early stages. But it was Valencia who needed the win, and Aimar, Carew and right-winger Francisco Rufete were full of determination going forward, though without creating clear-cut chances.
Indeed, as the half-hour mark approached Arsenal twice went agonisingly close to taking the lead. First, Henry's superb pass found Sylvain Wiltord in the area, but as he chipped the ball past Cañizares, Roberto Ayala was on hand to intercept. The resulting corner came to Gilberto, but his header hit Vicente Rodríguez on the line and bounced away off the bar.
Valencia made the most of this double let-off - by taking the lead on 34 minutes. Aimar spotted that Carew had broken away from marker Pascal Cygan and found the Norwegian striker, who slid the ball past Taylor. Suddenly, it was Valencia who were in pole position, and they attacked for the remainder of the half.
However, it took just four minutes of the second period for Arsenal to equalise. The home side had already been put under pressure when Robert Pires found Henry, who outpaced Ayala and shot in from outside the area.
Valencia back ahead
Just as Arsenal had shown their resilience after going behind, so Valencia showed they were determined to reach the last eight. On 56 minutes, Taylor saved well from Carew's header after Vicente's cross - but within 60 seconds the same combination saw the Norwegian nod the ball past the England Under-21 goalkeeper.
Home side victorious
Valencia did receive a blow 20 minutes from the end when Cañizares bravely dived on a loose ball and was seemingly concussed after being caught by Fredrik Ljungberg's boot, Andrés Palop taking over in goal. But the Spanish champions held on, including through five minutes of added time, and a third Champions League final in four years is still in their grasp. As for Arsenal, their thoughts will already be turning to next season's competition.