By Graham Hunter in La Coruna
RC Deportivo La Coruña put themselves in position to qualify from Group C with a comfortable 2-0 home win against PSV Eindhoven. Goals from Sergio González and the prolific Walter Pandiani meant that PSV have yet to win in Spain in eight visits.
Given that their Spanish hosts had conceded three goals in their weekend league match against Club Atlético de Osasuna, PSV Eindhoven's tactical approach was somewhat conservative. Coach Guus Hiddink deployed Remco van der Schaaf as a man-marker on Juan Valerón and asked his team to look to attack on the break.
Often the Dutch side tried to catch Deportivo with only three
defenders and passes were frequently sent into wide channels for either Dennis Rommedahl or Mateja Kezman to chase. Their pace is electric, but both strikers would have argued that nothing beats good, clean possession of the ball.
It took long enough for their key players such as Valerón to escape his shackles or for Sergio to control the flow of the match from his attacking central midfield position. But when Javier Irureta's side beat the first tackle it caused problems for PSV who were finding the slippery turf difficult.
PSV's hesitancy was almost punished early on as an Alberto Luque cross was headed on to his own crossbar by the stretching Kevin Hofland. Pandiani could then only gently nod the rebound over the goal.
However, the breakthrough promptly followed and again it owed everything to Deportivo's willingness to run at defenders. Victor Sánchez was fouled 30 metres from goal and Deportivo embarked on a neat little free-kick move, a triangle of touches between Mauro Silva, Valerón and Sergio, before the latter's shot took a deflection past Ronald Waterreus.
PSV move forward
However, PSV hardly wavered in their confidence or concentration and Deportivo's defenders, especially Nourredine Naybet and Jorge Andrade, were often left making last-gasp interceptions of long probing passes from Mark van Bommel.
It was the Spanish team, however, who came closest to adding to the score before half-time when another free-kick, conceded by Van der Schaaf on Joan Capdevila, was cleverly worked by Mauro Silva and Valerón into the penalty area only for PSV to bundle it out for a corner.
The injured Luque was replaced by Fran at half-time and the playmaker was straight into the action, releasing a superb pass which left Pandiani free in the area - but his left-foot shot screwed wide. However, his customary goal was only three minutes away. Victor's cross from the right was perfect for Valerón but Andre Ooijer shoved him in the back to concede a clear penalty.
Pandiani duly scored his seventh goal in seven Primera División and European matches with a cleanly struck spot-kick. Hiddink immediately introduced striker Arjen Robben for Van der Schaaf.
Deportivo's Diego Tristán quickly followed, a 58th-minute replacement for Pandiani, while PSV moved to a 4-1-3-2 formation. It was Fran, however, who had increased the footballing intelligence on show and his confident first touch plus his deft short passing opened gap after gap.
If Victor's lob over Waterreus had not drifted wide the game would have been well and truly over. Instead there was a chance for PSV to get back in the game but Park shot over from the edge of the area. Then Valerón's header put Tristán through but he slid his shot just past the post.