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By Mark Chaplin at Philips stadium
PSV Eindhoven were grateful to defender Alex for their hard-fought single-goal win against AS Monaco FC in a tight UEFA Champions League first knockout round first-leg contest.
The Brazilian's eighth-minute header from a corner was enough to give the Dutch side a narrow advantage to take to the return leg. PSV controlled the game for long spells but were unable to increase their lead against the French side, who defended stoutly to keep alive their hopes of progress.
PSV were looking to avenge a home defeat against Monaco in last season's group stage, and on a bitterly cold evening both sides took time to settle with the early exchanges confined to midfield. The visitors had the first attempt on goal after six minutes, Mohamed Kallon firing wide from outside the area.
But PSV retaliated swiftly, and snatched the vital opener two minutes later. Mark van Bommel swung in the game's first corner and Alex rose highest in the packed goalmouth to plant a firm downward header past Monaco goalkeeper Flavio Roma and set the home fans celebrating.
With Korean international Ji-Sung Park a busy presence on the right, PSV sought to press home their advantage, and Jefferson Farfán disappointingly shot weakly into Roma's arms after a surging right-wing run had opened up the visitors' defence midway through the first half. Soon afterwards, Swiss midfield player Johann Vogel advanced to shoot over the bar as Monaco were pressed back.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball, the French team were finding it hard to create any threat as the half-hour passed, with strikers Javier Saviola and Emmanuel Adebayor well shackled by the PSV defence. However, Alex was forced into a last-ditch tackle to foil Adebayor when the tall striker looked to break clear into the penalty area after the home side had squandered possession in midfield.
No margin for error
Vogel was shown the yellow card in 37 minutes for a foul on Jaroslav Plašil, and Monaco captain Julien Rodriguez also went into the book for a robust challenge on Young-Pyo Lee. A tightly-contested first half ended with a spell of fruitless Monaco pressure, Lucas Barnardi shooting over the bar from long range, but PSV were the happier of two sides at the break.
United States attacker DaMarcus Beasley replaced Farfán after 52 minutes for PSV, and the second half began with neither side able to gain the ascendancy in an increasingly tense encounter that was producing little in the way of clear-cut opportunities. PSV full-back André Ooijer did shoot over, however, in a rare moment of goalmouth action.
PSV needed a second goal to give themselves a comfortable advantage for their trip to France, but their approach work was becoming untidy and Monaco, while struggling to make their presence felt in attack, were working hard to deny them an opening.
A rare attempt on goal from the away team followed in the 65th minute, Saviola turning and shooting over the angle from Adebayor's pull-back from the byline. The Dutch side needed to stay vigilant to prevent Monaco snatching an all-important away goal, and Plašil shot straight at PSV goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes when the visitors came forward again.
Monaco seemed happy to limit the damage in the closing minutes as PSV's attacking fire subsided, but they came desperately close to a leveller with four minutes left, Kallon heading centimetres over from Bernardi's lob. Nevertheless, the tie remains intriguingly poised ahead of the return leg on 9 March.
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