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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Champions League, Arsenal 1-1 PSV

Alex sends Gunners out
PSV Eindhoven defender Alex went from villain to hero as his late strike earned a 2-1 aggregate victory over Arsenal in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday. Just 25 minutes earlier Alex had scored an own goal which turned the momentum of a tense tie Arsenal's way, but as the clock ticked down Alex crowned an otherwise superb performance with his late intervention at the other end to send PSV's large travelling support wild.

Kolo Toure, deployed at right-back rather than in his usual role at the heart of Arsenal's defence, surged down the wing in the eighth minute. Toure muscled his way past fellow Ivorian Arouna Kone and into the penalty area, but could only shoot harmlessly into the side-netting when a cutback would have opened up PSV's defence.

PSV - whose coach Ronald Koeman masterminded the ousting of Manchester United and Liverpool in last season's tournament when in charge of Benfica - set out to frustrate Arsenal in the first leg and, as Wenger had predicted, they started in similar fashion here. Those cautious tactics allowed the Gunners to dominate possession and they spent most of the first half camped around PSV's penalty area. Emmanuel Adebayor squandered an opening when he failed to control a Cesc Fabregas cross just six yards out and Gomes smothered the danger.

Toure was tormenting Sun Xiang, the first Chinese player to start a Champions League match, and he tested Gomes with a fierce drive from just inside the area, before Adebayor headed wide from Gael Clichy's cross.

With five minutes left of the first half, the visitors felt they had a claim for a penalty. Gilberto struggled to clear a backpass and only managed to fall over before Farfan then followed him on to the turf in a tangle of legs. Luxembourg referee Alain Hamer, though, was having none of it and waved play on.

His half-time team-talk looked to have had the desired affect as it was a bright start by the hosts. Baptista and Sun Xiang tussled on the edge of the penalty area, and the Brazilian took a tumble - but again the referee was unmoved.

Arsenal pulled themselves back into the tie on 58 minutes following a period of sustained pressure. A corner from the left was flicked on at the near post by Adebayor into the six-yard box where Alex, facing his own goal, diverted the ball into the net.
Arsenal almost snatched the overall lead in the tie when Fabregas' long ball up field was completely missed by Carlos Salcido and Adebayor raced clear - but Gomes was out quickly to make a smart save.

Fabregas then fired over from 12 yards, before at the other end Mendez shot wide following good work down the PSV right. With 25 minutes left, Wenger turned to Henry, who replaced Baptista. It needed a flying save from Gomes to keep out a curled free-kick from the Arsenal captain as the home side continued to press for a winner in normal time.

Disaster struck, however, with seven minutes to go. A needless free-kick conceded out on the left touchline by Alexander Hleb was whipped into the area by Mendez. Alex got up above everyone to bullet a header into the far corner to send PSV into the quarter-finals and Arsenal crashing out.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Toure, Silva, Gallas, Clichy (Walcott 85), Ljungberg (Diaby 75), Fabregas, Denilson, Hleb, Julio Baptista (Henry 66), Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Djourou, Aliadiere, Traore.

Booked: Fabregas.

Goals: Alex 58 og.

PSV: Gomes, Salcido, Alex, Feher, Sun, Culina, Mendez (Vayrynen 90), Simons, Farfan (Addo 89), Cocu, Kone (Afellay 41).
Subs Not Used: Moens, Tardelli, Marcellis.

Booked: Feher.

Goals: Alex 83.

Champions League, Arsenal 1-1 PSV extedned highlights and goals: