By Josh James at Stade Bollaert-Delelis
A delightful finish from the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned Arsenal a draw in the first friendly of pre-season.
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Making his first appearance since February, the winger raced onto Serge Gnabry's pass in the area to chip home over the keeper.
The Gunners had trailed the French second division side since late in the first half, when Matias Autret scored from close range after Calum Chambers' had header put the defence in trouble.Shorn of all of the players who were in international action over the summer, except for Joel Campbell, the Gunners looked rusty at times against a committed Lens side, but Chamberlain's 82nd-minute strike was worthy of salvaging a draw.
Setting the Scene
This was the Gunners' first visit to Lens since 1998, when Arsène Wenger's men also recorded a 1-1 draw – in the club's first ever Champions League game.
The Stade Bollaert-Delelis has been fully renovated since then, and was used as one of the Euro 2016 venues.
None of the players who appeared at the Euros were included in Arsenal's traveling squad though, and Rob Holding – who completed his transfer from Bolton in the morning – was also left behind at London Colney.Most of the rest of the squad were involved. Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the bench after missing the end of last season through injury and Mathieu Debuchy was back too, starting at right back after completing his loan spell at Bordeaux.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who signed from Lens last summer, also made the starting line up, while youngsters Chuba Akpom and Chris Willock, both of whom impressed during last pre-season in Singapore, were named on the bench.
The hosts, who finished sixth in Ligue 2 last season, included former England youth international John Bostock in their starting XI.
The colourful home support were in good voice early on, letting Debuchy know they weren’t prepared to forgive him his 10-year association with local rivals Lille when the teams were read out.
Akpom had Arsenal's first sight of goal, shooting tamely from Alex Iwobi's centre inside three minutes, but the next few chances fell to the hosts.
Abdellah Zoubir and Autret (twice) got in behind the defence, only to find their aim wanting on each occasion.
Reine-Adelaide was playing just off Akpom, and linking well with Iwobi on the left. One interchange between the two midway through the half led to a shooting opportunity for the Frenchman, but his effort was deflected wide.
Just when Arsenal looked to be growing into the game, Lens took the lead.
Zoubir capitalised on a Calum Chambers mistake, raced into the box and squared for the lively Autret to tap home.
Debuchy, one of Arsenal's better performers in the first half, was booked for a late tackle shortly before the referee blew for the interval.
The boss made six changes at half-time, moving Theo Walcott up front, with Gnabry and Oxlade-Chamberlain out wide.
Iwobi dropped into midfield and released Campbell with a lovely throughball, but the Costa Rican had strayed just offside.
Just after the hour mark substitute goalkeeper Matt Macey had to be alert to acrobatically turn Benjamin Bourigeaud's long range effort over the bar. But Arsenal were starting to dominate possession.
Walcott had the ball in the net but was flagged offside when he was put through by Campbell, then had a low shot turned wide before he was replaced by Willock.
Arsenal had been made to work hard all evening by the hosts, but when the goal arrived it was worth the wait. Gnabry wriggled free of his man to slide the ball through to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right wing.
The England man was cool and collected in front of goal, lifting the ball over Nicolas Douchez.
Next stop California. The players depart for the States on Monday looking to step up their preparations for the new campaign.
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