Sports

Much changed Arsenal play to draw away to PSV


EINDHOVEN, Netherlands, Dec 13 – Much-changed Arsenal were held to a draw at PSV Eindhoven in their final match of the Champions League group stage.

The Gunners had already won Group B and manager Mikel Arteta made eight changes from the weekend’s Premier League loss at Aston Villa.

It led to a disjointed performance, although Arsenal took the lead through Eddie Nketiah after 42 minutes.

But PSV earned a deserved point via Yorbe Vertessen’s fine equaliser.

Nketiah fired Arsenal ahead three minutes before the end of a first half in which they had been put under significant pressure by PSV, who had also already qualified for the knockout stages as group runners-up.

It was a superb finish by the England forward, controlling a low ball from the right before striking into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area.

But Arsenal were pegged back five minutes after the break through Vertessen’s right-footed strike off the left post.

Both sides had good chances to find a second-half winner. Ismael Saibari hit the near post before Guus Til shot across the face of goal late on.

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Arsenal did have the ball in the net, Jakub Kiwior heading home after beating PSV keeper Walter Benitez to a free-kick, but it was ruled out for offside against Gabriel.

Nketiah was denied one-on-one by Benitez in the sixth minute of stoppage time, before Leandro Trossard fired the rebound over.

Arsenal conclude the group stage with 13 points from six games – four ahead of PSV – and will face one of the other seven runners-up in the last 16.

“Overall, I think, very positive,” Arteta said of his side’s return to the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2016-17.

“Having not been in the competition for six or seven years and having a team that hasn’t got that much experience, I think we’ve competed really well.

“Overall, finishing first with a game to play we have to be really happy. Now we have to close that chapter until February and make sure when that chapter opens up again we’re in the best place to compete against another top side.”

With Arsenal safely through, Arteta rang the changes with just William Saliba, Gabriel and Kai Havertz retaining their starting XI spots.

That may have played a role in their sluggish start, with PSV much more lively in the opening stages.

The Dutch side’s only defeat this season was the 4-0 loss at Emirates Stadium, and they played with freedom and confidence here.

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Aaron Ramsdale – one of the eight Arsenal changes in his Champions League debut – saved well from Saibari before USA striker Ricardo Pepi struck the post with a header.

Arsenal held out and took the lead through Nketiah, in a much-needed riposte to critics of his place as a striker at Champions League level.

But their poor recent history in the Netherlands continues. Arsenal have now failed to win in their past four European visits to Dutch sides since a 2-1 Champions League victory at Ajax in September 2005.

Arteta was clearly discontented with the performance, with Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice all subbed on in the second half.

Rice, usually deployed as a central midfielder, was brought on as a centre-back in place of Saliba with Arteta saying he was using the lower stakes from the game to trial different scenarios.

“We have to try as if we have an emergency,” he said. “We have to understand and to be sure that we can fill that gap in the right way.

“He [Rice] has a lot of composure on the ball, he wins a lot of duels for a player of his size and he has done it in the past. He is a good option.”

Arteta named three academy youngsters on the bench – Lino Sousa, Reuell Walters and Ethan Nwaneri – but chose not to give them game time.

Emile Smith Rowe did come on as a late sub, the winger making his first appearance since October following a knee injury.

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-By BBC Sports 





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