Arsenal succumbed to a disappointing 2-1 defeat away at RC Lens in their Champions League group stage game after Elye Wahi’s second half strike sealed the Gunners’ first loss of the season.
Adrien Thomasson’s sumptuous first-half volley for Lens cancelled out Gabriel Jesus’ well-taken opener in the first half, before Wahi’s winner eventually secured a memorable victory for the home side.
A frustrating evening in northern France was compounded further as Bukayo Saka hobbled off injured in the 33rd minute, as the winger faces a fight for fitness before Sunday’s clash at home to Manchester City.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta selected a strong starting eleven for this encounter, making only two changes from Saturday’s 4-0 win against Bournemouth, and will have warned his players against any complacency.
Yet, once they stepped onto the Stade Bollaert-Delelis turf, greeted by an almighty cacophony of noise, billows of smoke consuming the night air, and a throng of yellow, black and red flags, the Gunners will have known they were in for a tough evening.
However, after withstanding early attacking pressure, Arsenal broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, when Bukayo Saka pounced on a loose pass, before feeding striker Gabriel Jesus who planted his effort low into the bottom left corner.
Kai Havertz, fresh from scoring his first goal for the club on the weekend, nearly doubled the Gunners’ lead, running onto Zinchenko’s lovely lofted ball and hitting a bouncing volley that was palmed away by keeper Brice Samba.
This save proved vital when the home side grabbed their equaliser a few minutes afterwards, after Arsenal keeper David Raya’s long pass was intercepted, and the ball was eventually worked to Lens forward Andrien Thomasson, whose beautiful first time half-volley curled past Raya to send the home crowd into raptures.
The hearts of the travelling fans may have sunk even lower when seeing Bukayo Saka slump to the floor, and hobble off the pitch, as the game’s momentum firmly swung in Lens’ direction.
Arsenal responded well after the break, as Leandro Trossard fired at the legs of Samba, which again denied Takehiro Tomiyasu moments later as the Japanese defender’s close-range shot came after evading his marker from a corner.
Lens posed a considerable threat on the right-hand side of their attack, and the home side claimed the deciding goal after right wing-back Przemyslaw Frankowski’s cross was neatly converted by Elye Wahi’s half-volley past Raya’s despairing dive in the 69th minute.
Mikel Arteta’s attempts to rescue at least a point from this perilous situation included an immediate triple substitution, but his managerial counterpart Franck Haise was able to manage a late onslaught to secure a famous triumph for “Les Sang et Or”, in their first Champions League home match in 21 years.
Arsenal need to bounce back this weekend, but have they got enough fit players to cope with a top team like Man City?
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