A penalty in first-half stoppage time condemned us to defeat in the UEFA Youth League in France on Tuesday.
Ayanda Sishuba converted from 12 yards for Lens after we had rarely looked in danger during the opening 45 minutes.
Mehmet Ali was without injured duo Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly, and his under-19 side lacked a cutting edge, despite enjoying plenty of possession.
It means we head to Sevilla on Matchday 3 still searching for our first point in the group, having lost our opening game 2-1 at home to PSV Eindhoven.
Behind at the break
In front of an enthusiastic crowd of 1,500 or so at Lens’ training facility, we started confidently, knocking the ball around well at the back.
On 10 minutes captain Reuell Walters broke forward from the centre of defence, advancing 50 yards before feeding Amario Cozier-Duberry on the right, but his cross was too strong for Omari Benjamin in the middle.
It was 15 minutes before the hosts had a sight of goal. Kembo Diliwidi pounced on a loose pass, but shot straight at Alexei Rojas-Fedorushchenko when one on one.
The lively Cozier-Duberry was next to go close. He easily beat the full-back and burst into the area, only to pull his shot into the side netting, and the pace of the Lens forwards was causing problems, and we had to get back in numbers to snuff out a chance for Nolan Bonte inside the area.
As the half entered injury time, the hosts were awarded a penalty when Sousa bundled over Ayanda Sishuba. Sishuba himself stepped up and smashed home his spot kick to give the French side the lead at the interval. It was a frustrating way to go into the break, as we had controlled much of the opening 45 minutes.
Searching for the leveller
Lens were lifted by their timely goal, and Bonte had the first effort of the second half, but Rojas-Fedorushchenko was equal to his low shot. The home side had the momentum by now, and some last-gasp defending from Walters and Ayden Heaven kept the deficit to one.
At the other end Charles Sagoe Jr, fresh from making his first-team debut last week at Brentford, led a rare foray into the box but lost his footing when attempting to turn his man.
We kept pressing for the equaliser. A corner bounced around the box, but Heaven couldn’t get his shot away, and Sagoe Jr struck wide when the half clearance fell his way.
Lens, who won their opening game 1-0 in Spain, were content to hold on to their lead, and were proving difficult to break down, and while Ali sent on the likes of Daniel Oyetunde, Ismail Oulad-M’hand and Seb Ferdinand to provide a spark, a frustrating afternoon in northern France ultimately ended in defeat.
Arsenal: Rojas-Fedorushchenko, Nichols (Oulad M’hand 67), Walters, Heaven, Sousa, Ibrahim, Rosiak, Dudziak (Ferdinand 79), Cozier-Duberry, Sagoe Jr, Benjamin (Oyetunde 67).
Subs not used: Cooper, Kacurri, Akolbire.
We’ll take on Sevilla in Spain on Matchday 3, on October 24, but before then the under-18s have games against Leicester City and Middlesbrough, while our under-21s travel to Exeter City in the EFL Trophy.
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