By Trevor Haylett at Highbury
Arsenal FC continued their winning ways as they opened their UEFA Champions League Group E campaign with victory at home to PSV Eindhoven, but were denied the chance to keep up their recent prolific form.
Arsène Wenger's side had scored 22 times in their six domestic fixtures but an Alex own goal late in the first half was all they had to show for another night of supreme control. Indeed they were almost pegged back when, in a rare opportunity late on, substitute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fired across goal when ideally placed.
Fredrik Ljungberg was still struggling with a back problem so José Antonio Reyes slotted straight back into the Arsenal starting lineup, installed on the left flank with Robert Pires taking the responsibility for the right. PSV coach Guus Hiddink opted for Gerald Sibon as a lone striker up front with Vennegoor on the bench.
Dennis Bergkamp was clearly relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against his fellow countrymen and was instrumental in a flowing start. Reyes had a glimpse of goal in the eighth minute when Patrick Vieira played him through, but defender André Ooijer stood in his way. From that point there were a succession of effective assaults on goal, with Thierry Henry twice going close.
Arsenal were warming up, their movement and the ease with which they took possession posing a constant problem for PSV. The visitors had opted for a more cautious approach, with midfielder Phillip Cocu never straying far from his back four. Sibon, not unfamiliar to the English audience after his time with Sheffield Wednesday FC, did have support from Ji-Sung Park and DaMarcus Beasley but rarely tested Jens Lehmann.
An Henry free-kick which Edwin Zoetebier grabbed at the second attempt, and a Vieira header from an Henry corner, kept up the Arsenal pressure, and they had the ball in the net with six minutes remaining of the first half but Pires's celebrations after a header were cut short by an offside flag.
When Arsenal finally broke through two minutes later it inevitably had Henry at its heart. He showed marvellous determination and skill to get away from Cocu and get around Ooijer, and his pull-back was helped goalwards by Vieira with the ball slipping over the line off luckless PSV defender Alex.
But the Brazilian came to his side's rescue just after the break as Reyes followed in Henry’s footprints with a blistering run of his own down the left, gathering Vieira’s pass and squaring the ball back into the danger zone. This time the defender cleared, at the expense of a corner.
A strong wind was not making life easy for both sets of players but Arsenal were making light of the problem, hitting a series of long passes at the start of the second half that so nearly put their sharpshooters in on goal again.
PSV could do little to stem the tide, and could not muster their own chance until the 59th minute, when Park managed to get his head to a cross whipped in from the right, but his effort sailed over.
The Dutch side continued to press tentatively, but despite Vennegoor's late opportunity, they will have to wait until the visit of Panathinaikos FC on 29 September to have a chance of getting off the mark, while Arsenal visit Rosenborg BK the same day.