Paris St-Germain. . .0
(Arsenal win 2-1 on agg)
ARSENAL may be the most Anglo-Saxon of teams, but George Graham is keen to broaden their horizons, and they rescued a season of domestic disappointment last night, reaching the first European final of his eight-year managership.
British passion prevailed over Gallic flair before an ecstatic Highbury audience, who thrilled to a pulsating tie which saw Graham's Gunners outplayed at times, and in constant danger of going out of the Cup-Winners' Cup.
To their credit, they dug deep, defended with great resolution and just about deserve to meet the winners of tonight's second semi-final, between Italy's Parma and the Portuguese thoroughbreds, Benfica.
It was a memorable 'I was there' sort of night, but success was not achieved without cost. Ian Wright, who collected his second caution of the tournament, for a senseless foul, is suspended for the final, and Nigel Winterburn was carried off on a stretcher, three minutes from the end, with a sprained ankle.
Arsenal hope Wright's understudy is as productive as Kevin Campbell proved last night. Drafted in late, when Paul Merson was injured in training, the man they call the Rottweiler put the bite on the French after just seven minutes, and the wound proved terminal.
The glancing header with which he met Lee Dixon's cross beat the French goalkeeper at his near post - a defensive lapse or a neat finish, depending on your persuasion.
PSG were sufficiently impressive in the drawn first leg to put Arsenal in mind of their Benfica nightmare, when they thought they had done enough in Lisbon, only to be embarrassed at home.
Those bitter memories will have come flooding back as the French League leaders moved quickly into an assured stride, disturbed only briefly by Campbell's decisive nod.
If France's finest needed any reminding that they were on hostile territory, even the weather had taken sides. After Paris in the spring, wet and windy North London must have come as qute a shock to those delicate sensibilities.
If it was, you would not have known it. They were good - very good - and hearts were in 30,000 mouths from the start, when David Seaman threw the ball straight to Valdo, whose cross seemed certain to produce the first score. Instead, Tony Adams, who had a towering game, slid in from nowhere to dispossess Rai in the act of shooting.
PSG were still cursing their luck when Arsenal rocked them back on their heels by taking the lead with their first foray out of their own half.
Dixon, not far behind Adams in the honours list, accepted his throw-in back from Alan Smith and crossed to the near post, where Campbell's twisting flick did the rest.
The Parisians were shaken, Patrick Colleter's booking, for a foul on John Jensen, reflecting the discomfiture, but they hit back with style and panache, contributing in handsome measure to a cup tie which had all the excitement the first leg lacked.
Laurent Fournier evaded Winterburn but shot into the side-netting when he had time to do better, and Ricardo was similarly profligate in wasting the free header he was allowed at Valdo's corner from the left. The French were the more gifted team, blessed with quick minds and quicker feet. Arsenal needed all their renowned strength - mental, physical and organisational. There was much to admire in the way they applied themselves, battling with the sleeves-rolled resolve which is British football's strongest suit.
Campbell, charging bullishly on the right, was chopped down by Ricardo, who was deservedly booked. Just as bad, and of much greater significance, was the lunge at Alain Roche which brought Wright his second booking in the competition.
The crowd tried to lift their fiery favourite but he was inconsolable, making no attempt to hide his tears. Eventually he shook off the slough of despond to test Bernard Lama from 20 yards and when he tried again from similar distance, the ground erupted in salute. Heady stuff.
Jensen beavered prodigiously in midfield, Steve Bould won a vital penalty-area header against Fournier. All hands to the pumps, and the good ship Gunner stayed afloat.
David Ginola should have equalised after 73 minutes when Ian Selley's mistake let him in, unattended, in the inside-left channel. France's Footballer of the Year hung his head in shame after shooting hurriedly wide of Seaman's right-hand post.
It was their last chance. Arsenal finished strongly and their bristling spirit must make them a worthwhile bet for the final, in Copenhagen on 4 May. Benfica would do them nicely.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn (Keown, 87); Selley, Jensen, Davis (Hillier, 76); Campbell, Smith, Wright.
Paris St-Germain (4-5-1): Lama; Sassus (Llacer, 80), Roche, Ricardo, Colleter; Le Guen, Fournier, Guerin, Valdo, Ginola; Rai (Gravelaine, 79).
Referee: P Mikkelsen (Denmark).
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