Boa Morte

Overmars hurdles Dehu's challenge.

Eloi shields the ball from Keown.

Keown fires up the troops!.

Overmars runs into double trouble.

Parlour and Dehu lean in.

0 - 1
Attendance : 73,707

By David Alexander

So the European dream is over. A must win game against the French
Champions proved too much for a depleted Arsenal devoid of the attacking imagination necessary to beat a team of such calibre.

Without Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, the cause was further hampered at half time when the inspirational Tony Adams playing like a colossus - remained in the dressing room for our most important second half.

To make matters worse, Ray Parlour was sent off in stoppage time for a a viscous lunge at Cyril Rool and Tony Vairelles followed soon after when the game threatened to disintegrate into a brawl.

We can make excuses, but the failure to muster a shot on target until the game was almost 70 minutes old tells the story of this disappointing affair.

With Dynamo Kyiv beating Panathinaikos, a victory was essential if we were to stand a chance of qualifying for the quarter finals.

Failing to score in any of our last four games and losing three of them is probably the worst run of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal career, but after the game he said: "It's very sad to lose a game of this importance. It was a good game but everything went against us, although it could have gone either way.

"Lens were very vulnerable at the back but we failed to score and we were a technically weak side."

Short of match practice, Christopher Wreh could have given Arsenal a dream start three minutes into the game. Ray Parlour crossed from the right and the ball eluded a Lens defender before falling at Wreh's feet, but the Liberian international miskicked.

Moments later Stephen Hughes won a tackle in midfield, Wreh squared the ball to Anelka and the young Frenchmen hit his shot over the bar. that was the closest we would come to scoring during the first half.

There was an immediate fright at the other end when Pascal Nouma found himself free in the box and looked certain to open the scoring, but his powerful shot was straight at David Seaman.

Marc Overmars, so often the focal point of our attack, looked out of sorts during the first half, ducking out of tackles and missing the sharp instincts which have made him such an international star.

His rustiness was typified by a low cross into the area which was too close to Lens keeper Warmuz when a more accurate pass would have given Anelka the simplest of chances.

Hughes then ran down the right and fooled the Lens defence, waltzing into the are from the right and pulling his shot too close to the keeper.

Seaman then made an outstanding save after Vladimir Smicer hit a powerful shot, parrying the ball to safety before the danger was cleared.

In a one against one for pace, you would bet Anelka would beat most people, but Warmuz raced out of his area after a ball over the top had deceived his defence and made a great block with his feet ten yards outside the box.

Nouma should have opened the scoring six minutes into the second half. Smicer got free of the defence, and although Steve Bould came across to cover, his cross fell invitingly to Nouma, who blasted over from three yards.

With 25 minutes to go, Wenger went for broke, bringing on Nelson Vivas and Luis Boa Morte for Garde and Wreh.

Parlour then blasted the ball at the keeper after the sort of run we should expect from Overmars.

Lens still piled forward, Dixon making a superb block as Eloi shaped to shoot and Seaman saving at the second attempt from a Vairelles effort.

But the England keeper could do nothing in the 72nd minute when Lens got the crucial goal.

Smicer, a constant threat, turned Dixon and hit a shot across goal which Michael Debeve blasted into the net at the back post.

Overmars lobbed a wonderful opportunity straight at Warmuz as we laid siege before the trouble kicked off - a sad end to our European Cup chances.

And we were even outsung by the magnificent Lens fans throughout the game.

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