Twenty years after its last match at Bollaert in the Champions League, RC Lens has not lost its touch. Tuesday evening, Franck Haise’s men defeated Arsenal 2 to 1, although they were undefeated this season before this date.
Published on: 03/10/2023 – 22:54
RC Lens “snapped” Arsenal. As proclaimed by the emblematic victory song of the 2022-2023 Sang et Or season, the Lensois beat the English vice-champions 2 to 1 on Tuesday October 3. Enough to extend the celebration of the return to the Champions League.
Thirtieth match in a row sold out: the Bollaert stadium, true to its reputation, was up to standard for the return 20 years later of the C1 to the Pas-de-Calais venue. Just like the Lensois, who brought out the golden jersey, a replica of the one worn 25 years ago for their first match in the competition, already against Arsenal at the time. The emotion is palpable in Marek when the Champions League anthem sounds before the start of the match.
Driven by this energy, the Sang et Or take the game into their own hands. Active on the wings, the Lensois quickly multiplied the corners obtained. Thomasson takes care of it. Danso touches his head. Abdul Samed gives it to him and the central defender strikes from the left. The ball passes one meter from the post (5th). It’s then Thomasson who sends shivers through the stadium by taking a cross from Frankowski (8th).
Thomasson at fault then hero
Arsenal did not panic and patiently rotated the ball before punishing Lensoise’s first error. Thomasson makes a naive back pass which is easily intercepted by Saka. The Englishman finds Jesus staring at Danso before deceiving Samba with a cross shot (14th, 0-1).
The Franco-Croatian from RC Lens was forgiven a few minutes later. In good spirits since his mistake, he is served by Wahi with an acrobatic deviation. He rolls up his strike, placing it out of Raya’s reach. Bollaert capsizes with happiness (24th, 1-1).
For Arsenal, trouble flies in squadrons. Bukayo Saka, who started the match despite uncertainty about his physical condition, went to the ground after feeling pain behind his thigh. He is replaced by Fabio Vieira (33rd). The Gunners regain control of the match and are ready to regain the advantage before the break but the Lensois block them well.
Returning from the locker room, a new naive error, this time by Nampalys Mendy, almost cost RC Lens’ ambitions dearly. It takes all the talent of Brice Samba who pulls off a world-class double save to prevent Trossard then Danso – against his camp – from scoring (48th).
Arsenal does not seem to strain its talent to endanger their opponents while the Lensois take few risks. Thomasson shines on several occasions to bring danger into the English camp (53rd, 61st). Then found behind the defense, he turns into a passer for Abdul Samed who narrowly misses the 2-1 (64th). A few moments later, it was Samba who stopped Tomiyasu from giving the Gunners the advantage (67th).
⚽️ BUUUUUUUUUUUT FOR RACING!!!! After a run down the right lane, Przemyslaw Frankowski serves Elye Wahi behind in the area. Number 9 gives the Sang et Or the advantage with the right foot! #RCLARS #UCL pic.twitter.com/7tc8rpyGnn
— Racing Club de Lens (@RCLens) October 3, 2023
The match is close to changing. It remains to be seen which side. Frankowksi rushes down the right side. He crosses back for Wahi who sends an unstoppable volley. Bollaert is in meltdown (70th, 2-1). Carried by its people who sing the local anthem “Les Corons” at every turn, the Lensois hold on until the end of the match thanks to constant solidarity and a Samba on fire.
Clearly, this seventh match at Bollaert in the Champions League for RC Lens once again proved that the venue has fetish virtues. The Blood and Gold have only been defeated there once so far. Yet undefeated so far, Arsenal have not been able to find the key.