By Richard Clarke
Arsenal have qualified for Phase Two of the Champions League as winners of Group A after a goalless draw with PSV Eindhoven at Highbury on Tuesday night.
In truth, it was a game of few highlights and our lowlight definitely came seven minutes before half time when Kolo Toure was dismissed for his second bookable offence. Like the first, it came for fouling Danish winger Dennis Rommedahl.
We held our own for the remainder of the half and came closest to scoring in the second despite our numerical disadvantage.
Auxerre then did us a favour by beating Borussia Dortmund in the other Group A game.
With qualification to Phase Two already assured, Arsène Wenger shuffled his side before kick-off. Toure began at left back and Francis Jeffers was alongside Thierry Henry up front.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Robert Pires were given the opportunity to shake off more rust after their long-term injuries by starting in midfield.
There were a couple of enforced changes too. Sol Campbell (back) and David Seaman (groin) made way for Igors Stepanovs and, on his debut, Rami Shaaban.
And we had an abundance of talent on the bench just in case.
The PSV supporters were buoyant and boisterous before kick-off; victory would assure them a spot in the UEFA Cup.
Jeffers could have silenced them as early as the eighth minute. Pires spotted the former Everton striker breaking clear and slid a pass through. Jeffers took the ball in his stride but could only poke his shot straight at Ronald Waterreus as the PSV keeper came out to block.
That was the only chance of the opening half-hour. Both midfields were snapping sweetly into their tackles but did not supply enough quality service to the front men. To be truthful, it was a little scrappy.
Andre Ooijer sent a free-kick across the face of Shaaban's goal and Waterreus rushed out to deny Jeffers after Henry's pass gave him a sniff of goal. But these were half-chances, neither side seemed capable of mounting much more.
Rommedahl seemed to carry PSV's biggest threat. He was certainly testing Toure's ability to adapt to his new position.
He teased our Ivory Coast international into tackles on 28 and 34 minutes. Toure was booked for both and therefore dismissed. Van Bronckhorst dropped back on to the left side of the defence as we finished the half playing 4-3-2.
PSV came out for the second half with more purpose. Mark van Bommel's clever angled ball put Mateja Kezman clear but Shaaban stretched out a leg to block his shot.
The ball found its way to Arjen Robben on the left who skipped past Oleg Luzhny only to blast into the side-netting, to the exasperation of his unmarked colleagues in the middle.
The visitors were now turning up the heat. Pascal Cygan slid in smartly to deny Robben as he burst clear and Shaaban clutched a fast, low cross from the same player just after the hour.
Wenger replaced Henry with Bergkamp with 23 minutes to go in an effort to freshen up our attack. Sylvain Wiltord followed him on soon afterwards as a replacement for Jeffers.
The changes gave us a little more impetus. But, in truth, the closest we came to scoring was when Waterreus fumbled a corner from Pires and the ball flashed past the far post. From the following corner, Van Bronckhorst forced the keeper into a hasty tip-over.
However, in the 76th minute, the two substitutes carved out the clearest chance since Jeffers' early miss. Wiltord wriggled clear on the right and passed inside for Bergkamp. His reverse pass from the byline fed the Frenchman, who had darted into the area. Unfortunately his shot flashed agonizingly across the face of goal.
PSV fired back immediately with Van Bommel stinging Shaaban's fingertips with a 25-yard drive.
But the Bergkamp-Wiltord combination again responded. The Dutchman feeding his French colleague just outside the area with five minutes left. However, Wiltord's shot was well wide.
A late corner saw the PSV keeper in our area and the ball rebound high on to the top of the crossbar. However, it seemed like one of those nights when there was never going to be a goal.GROUP A TeamPldWDLFAPts ARSENAL63129410 Borussia Dortmund63128710 Auxerre6213477 PSV Eindhoven6132586
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26 May 2004
Debutant Shaaban rolls the ball outHofland slides in on HenryJeffers heads goalwardsWiltord's shot goes inches wideRami Shaaban makes his debut
BUY THIS PICTUREEdu tackles Dennis Rommedahl
BUY THIS PICTUREEdu tackles PSV Eindhoven's Mark Van Bommel
BUY THIS PICTUREPires gets away from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
BUY THIS PICTURE