‘It came swerving and I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t catch it’: Jens Lehmann blames Nike ball for his howler that led to Arsenal’s Champions League exit to Chelsea in 2004
- Lehmann spilled Claude Makelele’s shot for Frank Lampard to score crucial goal
- It levelled 2004 quarter-final, second leg tie between London rivals at 2-2
- Chelsea would go on to make the semi-finals thanks to late Wayne Bridge winner
- Lehmann has blamed the flight of the Nike football used in the match
- UEFA made the decision to swap the match ball after the group stages that year
- German keeper also believes the hectic fixture schedule cost Arsenal Euro glory
Jens Lehmann has blamed the flight of the ball for his howler that cost Arsenal’s Invincibles the chance to win the Champions League in 2004.
The German goalkeeper made a costly gaffe as the Gunners crashed out of Europe to their London rivals Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
With Arsene Wenger’s team sweeping all before them on the domestic front – ultimately completing the 38-game Premier League season undefeated – they would never have a better chance to triumph in Europe as well.
Jens Lehmann wasn’t able to keep hold of a long-range shot by Claude Makelele, allowing Frank Lampard to score Chelsea’s equaliser in the 2004 Champions League tie
Lampard scored the rebound and Chelsea went on to eliminate Arsenal and reach the semis
Lehmann can only react with dismay as Lampard wheels away in celebration at Highbury
But after a useful 1-1 draw in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, those dreams died in the return at Highbury despite Jose Antonio Reyes putting Arsenal in front.
Six minutes after half-time, Lehmann spilled a long-range shot by Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard stole in to score a crucial away goal for Chelsea.
And a late winner by Wayne Bridge secured Chelsea’s progress to the semi-finals and confirmed Arsenal’s elimination.
Lehmann believes that UEFA’s decision to swap the Nike Merlin Vapour ball used in the group stages for the Nike Total 90 Aerow ball was partly to blame as well as Arsenal’s fixture schedule.
He told beIN Sports: ‘I didn’t understand and sometimes it still happens to big teams that the Premier League puts you in a schedule where you have to perform at the end of the season.
Wayne Bridge scored a late winner for Chelsea to dump Arsenal out of the Champions League
Lehmann watches on as Bridge runs off to celebrate the decisive goal in a dramatic tie
‘In 10 days what happened at the time, [we had to play] 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 [scoring] 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.’