The match: 2-1
It was crazy to see, superb to hear, and it was even crazier from the 69th minute of play. For its big return home in the Champions League, 21 years later, Lens had just taken the lead against Arsenal and the Bollaert-Delelis stadium could exult: his protégés were heading towards one of the greatest exploits of the French vice-champion on the European scene (2-1).
Who would have believed this scenario fifteen minutes into the game? Arsenal had just opened the scoring through Gabriel Jesus (14th), putting a blow to the Sang et Or’s good start to the match as well as to the morale of their supporters. Yes, but there you go. After a very complicated start to the Championship, RC Lens turned its head around on the pitch of Sevilla FC (1-1), and found in Andalusia its values of self-sacrifice, courage and in its game .
So Franck Haise’s team went back into battle, helped by Brice Samba. Determining, the captain of the Sang et Or was decisive against Havertz when the score was 0-1 (20th), then brilliant in front of Trossard (49th) and Tomiyasu (66th). In the meantime, Lens had equalized on a marvel from Thomasson (1-1, 25th), knew how to raise its level, before achieving the improbable.
Threatening again by Abdul Samed, whose shot had failed in the side net (64th), Lens overthrew Arsenal by Wahi, who took a cross from Frankowski perfectly (69th) with a touch from the right. There were still more than twenty minutes to go, Lens was close to breaking down just before added time, but Gradit made a miraculous save (90th). Four minutes later, all lovers of Lens and French football could scream with pleasure: Lens had just knocked down Arsenal, until then undefeated this season, and at the same time took first place in Group B.
The player: Thomasson turns up the volume
He blamed himself, obviously. Substitute for Seville (1-1), Adrien Thomasson was this time aligned by Franck Haise against Arsenal. But even before the quarter of an hour of play, the attacking midfielder missed his throw and contributed, because of his error, to the Gunners’ opener (0-1, 14th). Some would have collapsed. Not him. On a marvel of action and after an acrobatic shift from Wahi, Thomasson, on the left side of the area, curled the ball perfectly to place it in Raya’s small net (1-1, 25th). Thanks to this goal, his first in the event, the 29-year-old recovered magnificently and allowed Lens to avoid any doubts.
The fact: Saka’s injury exit
Uncertain after being hit on Saturday, during the large victory obtained at Bournemouth (4-0), Bukayo Saka appeared in Arsenal’s starting lineup. But Mikel Arteta will undoubtedly regret his decision. Because if the winger was decisive in this meeting, by launching Gabriel Jesus with great accuracy on the Gunners’ goal, he was unable to go further than half an hour into the game. On the ground, the international English touched the back of his left thigh, before requesting a change and being replaced by Fabio Vieira (34th). Very bad news for the Gunners, facing Manchester City on Sunday in the Premier League clash.