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Wenger defends decision to rest top players as Gunners flop in Porto

PUBLISHED: 10:06 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:41 07 September 2010

Arsene Wenger defended his decision to rest several first team players after Arsenal missed out on the chance to top Champions League Group G following their 2-0 defeat at Porto on Wednesday. Emmanuel Adebayor, Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Pe

Arsene Wenger defended his decision to rest several first team players after Arsenal missed out on the chance to top Champions League Group G following their 2-0 defeat at Porto on Wednesday.

Emmanuel Adebayor, Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were among those who stayed in London as the Portuguese leapfrogged the Gunners to finish group winners.

Arsenal now face either Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Panathinaikos or AS Roma in the knockout stages in February - with the crucial second leg the following month guaranteed to be away from Emirates Stadium. The draw will be made next Friday in Switzerland.

Wenger, however, admitted he had one eye on tomorrow lunchtime's Barclays Premier League trip to Middlesbrough.

"We had some injured players at home, but we have played five times now out of six a game away from home in the Premier League after a European game," he explained.

"This was the only match we could try to protect our next fixture in the championship, that is why we did it. But many of the players who stayed at home were a doubt anyway."

Goals either side of the interval from Bruno Alves and Lisandro Lopez either side of the break condemned Arsenal to their first defeat in this season's competition - in Arsene Wenger's 700th game in charge of the club.

Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira was jubilant, claiming his side should have won by a "far greater margin".

He said: "We deserved to win against a team that plays a special kind of football. They fielded several young players but with more maturity than my boys. I'm very glad to see that my players grew a lot. We were able to stop Arsenal's attacking play because we defended well and were humble."

Wenger admitted his side were second best: "Porto were stronger than us and deserved to win. In the first half we were not in trouble until we conceded the first goal. After that we saw our weaknesses at the back ... I think "underperformed" is a big word to describe how we played."

L Rhys Murphy scored twice and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas the other as Arsenal reached the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup with an impressive 3-2 win at Aston Villa on Wednesday night.


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