alex the hero as psv progress published: thursday 8 march 2007, 0.40cet
arsenal fc 1-1 psv eindhoven (agg: 1-2)
alex scored at both ends in north london - his latter strike securing psv's return to the quarter-final stage.
by michael harrold from arsenal stadium
alex's dramatic 83rd-minute header sent psv eindhoven through to the quarter-finals of the uefa champions league as the visitors battled back to draw 1-1 with arsenal fc and advance 2-1 on aggregate.
telling contribution just 25 minutes earlier the brazilian 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.
denilson debut the fitness of thierry henry proved a smokescreen for the real surprise of the night, as arsenal manager arsène wenger gave brazilian denilson his uefa champions league debut in a youthful midfield alongside fellow 19-year-old cesc fabregas. gilberto dropped into defence and with henry deemed fit enough only for the bench, a third brazilian, julio baptista, started up front.
waiting game wenger had called for patience and ronald koeman's disciplined side made arsenal wait for their opening. not until the seventh minute did they get a sight of goal, kolo touré shooting wide after a marauding run down the right. when william gallas left the pitch to replace a contact lens it appeared arsenal were not seeing everything to their liking, a feeling emphasised when jefferson farfán fired low into the side-netting.
arsenal press arsenal, though, were beginning to wrest the initiative. emmanuel adebayor was their biggest threat and he drew a save from heurelho gomes on 15 minutes before the psv goalkeeper turned away touré's stinging drive. alex, again superb after a dominant display in eindhoven, blocked from fabregas then baptista shot over as the premiership team turned the screw. like so often this season, however, there were no goals to show for arsenal's pressure and psv almost took advantage. farfán and arouna koné had offered brief respite on the break, but their biggest chance fell to evergreen phillip cocu, who shook his head in disbelief after glancing a free header wide before the break.
timely equaliser injury to koné resulted in psv adopting an even more cautious approach after the restart and the tireless adebayor was forced deeper in search of the ball as arsenal struggled to penetrate their massed ranks. just as psv were growing in confidence, though, arsenal found a way through on 58 minutes. for once they made a corner pay, with the unfortunate alex turning the ball into his own goal after gomes had missed his punch at the near post. the goalkeeper redeemed himself within two minutes, saving superbly from adebayor as he raced clear.
late twist arsenal had come alive and the introduction of henry on 66 minutes brought further reason for cheer. with farfán menacing for psv, the tie was wide open and henry came close to deciding it only for his free-kick to be palmed away by gomes with eleven minutes left. the final word would be alex's, however, the brazilian climbing highest to nod in edison méndez's cross to send psv through.