Arsenal edge close encounter
By Alex Dunn. Last Updated: 14/09/04 11:08pm
Arsenal were never at their sumptuous best against PSV Eindhoven but an own goal from Alex was enough to secure a 1-0 success at Highbury.
At times in the first period Arsene Wenger's side threatened an avalanche of goals but as the game drew to its close, the North London outfit looked anxious and welcomed the final whistle.
The opening moments saw fit-again captain Patrick Vieira at his rallying best, crunching into tackles and urging his side forward at every available opportunity.
Guus Hiddink's well-drilled outfit were content to frustrate and for all their possession, it took Arsenal a full ten minutes to garner their first real chance as the lively Jose Antonio Reyes found the side netting with an angled drive.
An impatient Thierry Henry then unleashed a strike from distance that forced another anxious look from PSV keeper Edwin Zoetebier, before Johann Vogel scuffed an effort wide on a rare foray for the visitors.
Rattled by PSV's impertinence, Arsenal strode forward and after Ashley Cole provided a teasing cross on the overlap, Robert Pires was wasteful in his finish and the chance was spurned.
With the half reaching its concluding quarter, Henry tested Zoetebier's handling with a rasping free kick and then compatriot Vieira could have done better with his head when well placed from his team-mate's corner.
Pires was left perplexed when in-the-news referee Domenico Messina adjudged his header from Zoetebier's parry, after a venomous Henry drive, to be offside and chalked off Arsenal's opener.
However, The Gunners had reserves in their armoury and when Henry set off on a scintillating run into the heart of the Dutch back-line, PSV had no answer.
Reaching the by-line courtesy of a jet-heeled advance, the Frenchman pulled the ball back and Brazilian defender Alex stepped in front of Vieira to prod into his own goal.
Like a punch drunk boxer PSV were against the Highbury ropes but Arsenal failed to strike a knockout blow and went into the interval with only a single-goal supremacy.
Such is Arsenal's form at present a masterclass is anticipated, even expected, each time they are summoned to appear but in the second half, Wenger's entertainers showed they too are mere mortals.
Buoyed by restricting Arsenal to half-chances, PSV grew in confidence and began to stroke passes around with an assured presence if not quite cutting edge.
Midfielder Park Ji-Sung broke from his defensive shackles to head onto the top of Jens Lehmann's goal early on and then Mark van Bommel eyed glory but struck wide when given space 30 yards out.
If Arsenal were edgy then their apprehension could have proven well judged had former Sheffield Wednesday enigma Gerard Sibon matched the composure of his control, with a finish when unmarked in the Arsenal box.
Pascal Cygan inadvertently got a touch on Sibon's strike but those inside Highbury were well aware that a stroll in the park was no longer on the agenda.
PSV substitute Jeffersen Farfan failed to meet a volley with any force with five minutes remaining and the final moments were largely played out in the Arsenal box.
Park Ji-Sung had a drive blocked by Cole and whilst it was never vintage, Arsenal held out with a combative endeavour that proved enough.
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|Team Name||Arsenal||PSV Eindhoven|
|Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||2||3|
|Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||6||7|
|Total Fouls Conceded||12||28|
| || || |
UEFA Champions League
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