Jens Lehmann, save vs Juan Román Riquelme

Champions League semi-final second leg, 25 April 2006

‘My mother said, to get things done

You’d better not mess with Major Jens’

Jens Lehmann had been little short of heroic again in a game where it would be hard to deny we’d been battered. Despite Arsenal struggling badly in the league, ultimately scraping fourth in the last-ever game at Highbury, Lehmann would set an astonishing record of 853 minutes without conceding in the Champions League, stretching from the previous year’s round of 16 to the knockouts in 2006. What’s more, much of this was achieved with an extremely callow makeshift back four of Eboué, Touré, Senderos and Mathieu Flamini, famously playing out of position at left-back.

Despite a far tougher evening than the 1-0 win at Highbury, with the ‘Yellow Submarine’ having to be thwarted several times by our goalkeeper, on 89 minutes the job was surely all but done. The frustration, despair even, could hardly then have been more pronounced when Clichy was softly penalized for a clumsy push on José Mari.

Riquelme, the extravagantly gifted Argentinian playmaker, stepped up. Was he really brimming with confidence? It seemed appropriate that the now understandably much-maligned Henry Winter would describe Jens as fixing his opponent ‘with a stare that would have frozen the Mediterranean’. As Riquelme pushed the ball firmly towards the right-hand corner, Lehmann dived to repel the shot in the same commanding style he would repeat against Riquelme’s compatriots at the World Cup. As we held out, Arsène celebrated on the touchline with an emotion we haven’t seen since. For all Lehmann’s red-card trauma in the final, and the trophies we’ve finally started winning again, what we wouldn’t give to be in the same position again now…