Jens Lehmann reveals Nike ball was to blame for Arsenal’s Champions League defeat against Chelsea

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal's goal keeper Jens Lehmann deflects a shot by Chelsea's Claude Makelele only to have Frank Lampard score during their Champions League quarter-final second leg football match 06 April, 2004 at Highbury Stadium, London. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Jens Lehmann believes Nike’s Total 90 Aerow ball was to blame for Arsenal’s Champions League defeat against Chelsea in 2004 (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal’s Champions League quarter final defeat against Chelsea represented one of the most significant of Arsene Wenger’s entire reign and goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has claimed Nike’s Total 90 Aerow ball was partly to blame.

Wenger’s side had swept all before them on the domestic front and were well on their way to claiming the league title, completing an unprecedented unbeaten campaign in the process.

Their hopes of progressing in Europe, however, hinged on defeating Chelsea. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal remained favourites to progress despite having been knocked out of the FA Cup four days earlier by Manchester United.

Jose Antonio Reyes gave Wenger’s men the advantage before the break at Highbury, but the turning point of the tie arrived six minutes after the interval when Lehmann spilled Claude Makelele’s long-range strike and Frank Lampard gobbled up the rebound.

Wayne Bridge’s late goal sealed Chelsea’s place in the semi-final against Monaco and although Lehmann acknowledged the gruelling schedule played a part in Arsenal’s demise, he also claimed the decision to ditch the Merlin Vapour ball, which was used during the group stages of the competition, also contributed to his downfall.

He told beIN Sports: ‘I didn’t understand and sometimes it still happens to big teams that the Premier League puts you on a schedule where you have to perform at the end of the season. In 10 days what happened at the time (we had to play) against top, top teams.

‘No team, however good it is, can perform every two or three days on such a high level. It was our disadvantage against Chelsea.

‘I remember I made a mistake against Chelsea because we played with a brand new Nike ball and it came swerving like that and I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t catch it.

‘It was a draw then with Frank Lampard and then in the last minute all of a sudden, because we were so tired, we couldn’t defend a draw and we lost that game.’

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