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Tottenham target Nice's Marcel - source

By ESPN Staff

Wenger to stick with second string for return leg

Arsene Wenger has promised to keep faith with his second string next week when Arsenal look to reach the Carling Cup final at the expense of rivals Tottenham.

Wenger, as predicted, picked a partly inexperienced line-up for the semi-final first leg and watched his side earn a 2-2 draw courtesy of Julio Baptista's double at White Hart Lane.

Baptista is not yet a regular following his loan move from Real Madrid, but the Brazilian has more experience than the likes of Abou Diaby, Denilson, Armand Traore and Theo Walcott who were included by Wenger.

But the Frenchman believes his fringe players have earned the right to feature when Spurs travel to the Emirates Stadium next week for the return leg.

'I think most of them will play next week because they have done well,' said Wenger. 'There is a place in the final and they are ready to fight for it. They were in the competition since the start and they are still unbeaten. That's quality not coincidence.'

Wenger was delighted with the response of his players after Spurs stormed into a two-goal lead before the break.

'I feel that it's great for the confidence of the young players that they are away from home and can come back,' he added. 'We showed heart and resilience to come back - other teams could have crumbled. It's fantastic.'

Heavy traffic and the lack of a police escort caused a 15-minute delay to kick-off, and Spurs seized the initiative and led at half time through Dimitar Berbatov and an own goal from Baptista.

Referee Graham Poll was reported to have spent the interval in a dressing room darkened by a power cut, and the Tring official then double checked with the touchline which team was to start the second half.

The second period contrasted to the first, with Arsenal pushing for the goal to get them back in the tie.

Baptista powered through in the 64th minute for their lifeline, then tapped in with 13 minutes remaining after goalkeeper Paul Robinson had been caught out of position. Walcott then missed a glorious chance to establish a lead before the final whistle.

Spurs boss Martin Jol was disappointed in the manner in which his side let their lead slip.

'We've got ourselves to blame,' said the Dutchman, who had to take off Berbatov with a groin injury just after the Bulgarian scored. 'The first 25 minutes we were outstanding and that had a lot to do with Berbatov.

'We knew we had to score a third, but we didn't, dropped off and were tired. They looked sharp and took control of the game with five or six fresh players.'

Jol's side have not lost a cup tie this season and he will treat next week's clash as a one-off game.

'There is a final at stake,' he said. 'We will approach it like that but it's certainly disappointing because we were two goals up.'

Meanwhile, Wenger will assess the damage to Alexander Hleb after the midfielder picked up a hamstring injury.