PSV Eindhoven defeat CSKA to reach Champions League round of 16

For most of this fateful night, PSV Eindhoven left its Champions League squarely in the hands of others. It took a CSKA Moscow goal and the prospect of throwing away a place in the last 16 to spur the Dutch side to life. PSV finally summoned the desire to take their fate squarely into their hands in the final quarter of an hour to claim a 2-1 victory over CSKA and secure second-place in Group B on their own merits.

PSV meandered through most of this listless affair until Andrés Guardado conceded a penalty after 74 minutes and watched Sergey Ignashevich slot home to raise the prospect of defeat moments later. Luuk De Jong restored parity four minutes later to place PSV back on level terms. Davy Propper then steered home after 85 minutes to erase any doubts and guarantee a place in the knockout round draw.

On the balance, PSV deserved their victory on the night and their spot in the last 16. Philip Cocu’s side defeated Wolfsburg and Manchester United in Eindhoven and secured a point at Old Trafford. Their performances reflected the good work carried out Cocu and underscored the influence of Mexican internationals Guardado and Héctor Moreno on their successes.

This result proved enough to send PSV through in second place after Wolfsburg’s 3-2 victory over Manchester United in Germany. PSV face a daunting task to navigate further into the tournament (particularly with De Jong suspended for the first leg of the round of 16 tie due to yellow card accumulation), but they can correctly count this safe path through group stage

PSV opted for solidity first and foremost given the circumstances and named Moreno at left back as part of a relatively conservative starting XI. The measures taken by Cocu reflected the threat posed by out-of-form CSKA on the break and underscored the need for tempered ambitions on this night.

Those measures — plus a general absence of sharpness in the final third — seeped into the early stages of the proceedings. PSV enjoyed more of the ball and posed more of a threat when they pushed forward in the wide areas, but the hosts stumbled in their attempts to produce the final ball required to take advantage of them.

The best opportunities faltered by the wayside through a dearth of precision. Davy Propper squandered a storming PSV counter from a blocked CSKA free kick with a poor touch at the critical moment. Luuk De Jong spurned a tempting cross from Moreno by nodding straight at Igor Akinfeev.

CSKA spent most of their time warding off those forays and waiting for their one or two chances on the break. Tosic forced Jeroen Zoet to parry away his free kick from the right wing just before halftime. It proved one of the rare moments of danger posed by the visitors until the waning stages.

The news of Wolfsburg’s continued superiority urged further caution from PSV as the second half unfolded. The proceedings were static with PSV looking firmly at the proceedings in Germany and CSKA mostly thinking about the winter break ahead after the conclusion of this match. Those calculations changed in one sequence as CSKA took the lead from the penalty spot inside the final quarter of an hour.

PSV paid dearly for their inability to fully clear Alan Dzagoev’s corner kick from the left. The second ball fell onto the edge of the penalty area. Guardado arrived just a moment behind Tosic and clipped him on the bottom of his foot. Referee David Fernández Borbalán pointed to the spot to the dismay of the PSV players. Ignashevich assumed the responsibility and slotted inside the right post to stake CSKA to the lead.

Ignashevich’s cool penalty stood in stark contrast to CSKA’s persistent troubles from the spot this season and urged PSV forward in response. Their response ultimately paved the way for a pair of goals and a return to the round of 16 for the first time in nearly a decade.

Guardado atoned for his tackle on the penalty by creating the initial danger for the equalizer. CSKA dealt poorly with the initial service and permitted Jorrit Hendrix to pop the second ball back into the box as the ragged Russian line tried to pull out. Those disjointed measures left De Jong to collect deftly and tuck home the equalizer to place PSV on course.

Manchester United’s second goal in Wolfsburg underscored the need for a second goal for safety’s sake. Moreno instigated it with a determined run into the channel and a tidy ball toward substitute Steven Bergwijn near the penalty spot. Bergwijn knocked down for Propper to steer his first-time effort inside the post and spark wild celebrations inside Philips Stadion.

Wolfsburg advanced at the top of Group B after finally subduing United in Germany, but the Germans’ victory hardly registered in Eindhoven. PSV entered this night with their fate firmly in their own hands. It took them a while to rise to the occasion, but their late show ultimately secured that precious place in the last 16 nevertheless.