Arsenal endured a challenging night in the Champions League as Bukayo Saka had to leave the field injured during their defeat to Lens.
Severe weather conditions caused Mikel Arteta and his squad to be grounded at Luton Airport for five hours on Monday, leading to a delay in their journey to France. Unfortunately, their aspirations of smoothly progressing to the knockout stages took a hit as Lens came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory at a lively Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
Gabriel Jesus initially seemed to give Arsenal the upper hand when he scored his 22nd Champions League goal, giving them a lead. However, their hopes of an easy victory were derailed when a mistake by goalkeeper David Raya allowed Adrien Thomasson to equalize. The situation worsened as Bukayo Saka left the field due to injury for the third time in just nine days. Elye Wahi then sealed the win for Lens with a goal 20 minutes before the end, reshuffling the dynamics of Group B. Arsenal now face a challenging away fixture against Europa League holders Sevilla later in the month.
This marked Lens’ first home Champions League game in 21 years, and their fans made sure to savor the occasion. The stadium was filled with a massive tifo display, flares, and a deafening atmosphere as the match kicked off. Lens launched a rapid attack against Arsenal in the early moments, with Kevin Danso narrowly missing the target after a corner.
Despite Lens’ aggressive start, Arsenal took the lead through Gabriel Jesus, who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner after Saka was gifted possession following a sloppy backpass.
Lens’ enthusiastic supporters continued to make noise despite their team falling behind, and their dedication paid off with an equalizer. Raya, positioned outside his box, attempted a pass into midfield, but it was intercepted, leading to Thomasson’s superb curling strike that leveled the score.
Saka’s injury woes continued as he had to be substituted once again, this time replaced by Fabio Vieira.
Arsenal had a chance to regain the lead in the second half when Leandro Trossard forced Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba into a smart save.
However, Lens gradually took control of the game, with Abdul Samed’s shot into the side-netting serving as a warning for the visitors.
With the match becoming more open, Takehiro Tomiyasu had a great opportunity to score from a corner but only managed to shoot directly at Mendy.
Lens ultimately took the lead through Wahi, who delivered a sweeping finish past Raya after a break down the right flank.
In response, Arteta made a quick triple substitution, with Ben White coming on for Oleksandr Zinchenko and the ineffective Trossard and Kai Havertz being replaced by Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson.
However, Samba was rarely tested for the rest of the match, and Arsenal struggled to create a clear-cut chance to salvage a point.