A chance encounter with Alex Ferguson after Jens Lehmann’s red card in the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona left the then Arsenal goalkeeper feeling like “Lucifer himself”.
Lehmann was dismissed just 18 minutes into the showpiece at Stade de France after racing off his line and taking out Samuel Eto’o just outside the penalty area.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Arsenal took a 1-0 lead into half-time through Sol Campbell’s header, but Barca scored twice in the final 15 minutes as goals from Eto’o and Juliano Belletti secured them the trophy.
Lehmann had to watch those scenes unfold from the stands and, in his upcoming autobiography, he detailed the searing look he received from then Manchester United manager Ferguson on his way up to his seat.
In an extract exclusively released to Omnisport, he wrote: “Finally, at quarter to nine, it was on. Again, we played a 4–5–1 with Thierry Henry as the only striker. Contrary to his normally offensively orientated notion, Arsene Wenger had made us play this way during the entire Champions League season – successfully, too: up to this point, we had not conceded a single goal.
“After a few minutes, Thierry Henry had the first great chance, followed by two Spanish attempts on target which I could parry safely. Four minutes past nine, the infamous moment had come: Ronaldinho played his pass, Eto’o began to run, Lehmann grasped, [referee Terje] Hauge blew his whistle.
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 17, 2016
“Following the dismissal, I slunk into the dressing room to put on a clean shirt. What was I to do now? For a few minutes, I sat around, irresolute, before climbing up the steps to the stands.
“I bumped into Sir Alex Ferguson, who stared at me wide-eyed, as if he had seen Lucifer himself. ‘Bad luck,’ I said with a shrug, continuing on my way.
“When I had eventually found a seat, I was joined by Lasse and Mats [his children], who had been sitting with my wife and brother. I pulled them onto my lap and finally began to tear up.
“There is no apt description nor any solace for this moment, in which all aims, hopes and ambition of the previous months disappear in a black hole of disappointment.
“I suspected I would never again be part of a Champions League final but did not let the thought get to me at all.”
— deCoubertin Books (@deCoubertin) November 9, 2017
Jens Lehmann’s autobiography ‘The Madness is on the Pitch’, published by deCoubertin, is released on November 14. Visit www.decoubertin.co.uk/Lehmann for details.
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