RC Lens 2-1 Arsenal: Bukayo Saka limps off as Mikel Arteta’s Gunners suffer UEFA Champions League defeat

Buoyed by positive results in the Premier League recently, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side were full of confidence as they travelled to RC Lens’ Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Tuesday. Despite having failed to win any of their opening five Ligue 1 fixtures, the hosts appeared to have turned a corner prior to this match – winning two on the bounce.

RCL: Samba; Medina, Danso, Gradit; Machado, Samed, Mendy, Frankowski; Thomasson, Sotoca; Wahi

ARS: Raya; Zinchenko, Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu; Rice, Ødegaard, Havertz; Trossard, Jesus, Saka

Arsenal found themselves under pressure at the Stade Bollaert-Delalis from the very start of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League clash – but pressure counts for nothing, and it was the Gunners that found the all-important breakthrough just before the fifteen minute mark.

Adrien Thomasson’s mistake was pounced upon by Bukayo Saka, with the England international quickly opting to play Gabriel Jesus through on goal. Shifting the ball onto his stronger right foot, the Brazilian forward picked out the bottom-left corner with sublime accuracy – cueing celebrations among the travelling contingent.

Embed from Getty Images

But when Thomasson made amends for his earlier mistake by levelling the match ten minutes later with a sensational curling effort into the far corner, the Gunners failed to really recover. Their hopes of comeback were tainted further by Saka’s withdrawal in the 34th minute, as a result of an apparent muscle injury.

Arsenal did well to hold out until the 69th minute – though Mikel Arteta’s defence did eventually crumble, and when Przemysław Frankowski whipped a ball into the box for Elye Wahi, there was only ever going to be one outcome as the French U21 international slammed a powerful effort past David Raya.

Embed from Getty Images

And while the Gunners came close to equalising as the clock ticked into additional time, Reiss Nelson’s sidefooted strike was denied by Jonathan Gradit’s last-ditch clearance, condemning Arsenal to a disappointing loss in France.

RC Lens will host PSV in three weeks’ time, while Arsenal travel to Sevilla. Firstly though, the Gunners must look to conquer Manchester City at Emirates Stadium this Sunday.