Wahi stars with goal and assist as Lens beats Arsenal 2-1 in Champions League
LENS, France (AP) — Striker Elye Wahi scored one goal and expertly created the other as Lens rallied to beat Arsenal 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The northern French side moved top of Group B with four points and handed Premier League high-flyer Arsenal its first defeat of the season.
“It certainly was difficult tonight and congratulations to Lens. As we all saw, they’re a really good side and the atmosphere was exceptional,” Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta said. “We had to defend the box much better than we did.”
The 20-year-old Wahi’s 19 league goals for Montpellier last season earned him a move for 35 million euros ($38 million). He even turned down Premier League big spenders Chelsea to join a Lens side which finished second in the French league last season behind Paris Saint-Germain
Striker Gabriel Jesus fired Arsenal ahead in the 14th after a poor back pass from Lens midfielder Adrien Thomasson was picked up by Bukayo Saka. He fed striker Jesus, who planted a shot into the bottom left corner.
The equaliser at a raucous Stade Bollaert came in the 25th after a poor clearance by Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya.
The loose ball was launched into the penalty area by Deiver Machado, where Wahi showed remarkable balance and skill to chest the ball down and flick it with the outside of his right foot to Thomasson, who curled the ball superbly into the right corner.
“I felt like we created enough to win the game. We missed some big chances, especially after going 1-0 up,” Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice said. “It was just that final bit that was lacking tonight. They defended well, credit to them.”
To make Arsenal’s night worse, Saka limped off injured late in the first half.
Wahi surged into the penalty area to delicately clip the ball into the left corner from Przemysław Frankowski’s right-wing cross in the 69th.
In the other Group B game, PSV drew 2-2 at home to Sevilla.
The other star on the night for Lens was goalkeeper Brice Samba, who made smart saves to keep out shots from attacking midfielder Kai Havertz, winger Leandro Trossard, and right back Takehiro Tomiyasu.
With the clock ticking, Samba was beaten by substitute Reiss Nelson’s shot in the 89th but right back Jonathan Gradit slid to clear the ball off the line and then got up to kick it away, much to the relief of coach Franck Haise and the loud Lens fans.
“We knew they were unbeaten this season and that it would be a huge challenge. The crowd really helped us,” Thomasson said. “We stayed vigilant until the end.”
It has been a strong turnaround from Lens, which did not won any of its first six games of the season overall but has now won three straight.