Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the season on Tuesday in a pulsating Champions League clash against French Ligue 1 club Lens, losing 2-1 in France. Gabriel Jesus gave the Premier League side an early lead in the 14th minute, silencing the raucous Stade Bollaert.
However, Lens quickly equalized as Adrien Thomasson found the net, and Arsenal faced another setback as Bukayo Saka had to limp off before half-time. Lens’ 20-year-old striker Elye Wahi, who became the club’s record signing at the start of the season, secured the victory with a fine strike in the 69th minute.
This result elevated Lens to the top of Champions League Group B with four points, one ahead of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. In the other group match on Tuesday, PSV Eindhoven and Sevilla played to a 2-2 draw in the Netherlands.
While Arsenal made their return to the Champions League after a six-season absence, Lens participated in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in over 20 years. This historic match held particular significance for Lens, especially as it was against a team they famously defeated in the Champions League back in 1998.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal had been clear favorites against Lens a quarter of a century ago, and Arteta’s team arrived in northern France still unbeaten this season. They solidified their status as group favorites with a commanding 4-0 victory over PSV in their opening game. In contrast, Lens drew 1-1 away to Sevilla, taking inspiration from that performance.
Saka, despite his recent injury concerns, was deemed fit to start for Arsenal and played a vital role in their early lead with his presence on the field.