Arsenal loses to Lens for the first time this season

Tuesday saw Arsenal suffer their first loss of the year as Lens overcame an early deficit to overcome Arsenal 2-1 in France in a thrilling Champions League match thanks to a goal from Elye Wahi in the second half.

When he scored in the 14th minute to quiet a rowdy Stade Bollaert, Gabriel Jesus gave the Premier League team the perfect start.

However, the Ligue 1 runners-up from the previous campaign quickly equalized the score, and the visitors saw Bukayo Saka limp out before halftime.

The 20-year-old striker Wahi, whose signing at the beginning of the season set a club record for Lens, subsequently scored in the 69th minute, and his team held on for a storied triumph.

The result lifts them above Arsenal to the top of Champions League Group B on four points, one above Mikel Arteta’s side.

Tuesday’s other group match featured a 2-2 tie between Sevilla and PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

While Lens are participating in Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in more than 20 years, Arsenal has returned to the Champions League after a six-season absence.

The fact that it was against a team Lens famously defeated in the Champions League back in 1998 made their first European home game of the season all the more meaningful.Arteta’s club was in this match because they arrived in northern France still unbeaten this year, unlike Arsene Wenger’s Gunners who were the obvious favorites versus Lens 25 years ago.

They underlined their status as the leading contenders in the group with a 4-0 demolition of PSV in their opening game, while Lens had taken heart from their performance in coming back to draw 1-1 away to Sevilla. Saka was deemed fit to start for the visitors despite having limped off in the 4-0 win at Bournemouth in the Premier League at the weekend, and his presence was vital as Arsenal went ahead early on.

Jesus Strikes First 

Before Saka pounced on a loose ball that Thomasson had thrown back toward his own goal, they had failed to muster a shot. Jesus was fed by Saka, and he finished neatly.

Lens learned the hard way what can happen if you make even the smallest error at this level, but they did not give up and took advantage of an Arsenal blunder to draw level on the quarter-hour mark.

When he attempted to fly a pass out to the Arsenal right, David Raya, who was once again favored to Aaron Ramsdale in goal, was outside of his box. The pass was intercepted, and Wahi was quickly sent forward. Wahi did an excellent job of controlling the ball and laying it off for Thomasson to score with an outstanding first-time shot.

Another setback followed for Arsenal as Saka went down just after the half-hour mark and was unable to carry on, with Fabio Vieira taking his place.

After the break, both teams had opportunities, but what had evened up the game depended on two extraordinary events that happened roughly midway through the second half.

Brice Samba made an incredible reflex stop to deny Takehiro Tomiyasu after the Japanese player met an Arsenal corner on the first attempt. Three minutes later, Lens seized the lead.

The youthful striker Wahi stroked a first-time effort low into the far corner to make it 2-1 and raise the roof off the stadium after Przemyslaw Frankowski curled a cross from the right side back out towards him in the middle.

Then, in the dying seconds, the home team held off an Arsenal assault thanks to a remarkable block by Jonathan Gradit.

AFP

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