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Nicklas Bendtner delights Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Nicklas Bendtner (centre) scored a hat-trick against Porto
Bendtner was atrocious on Saturday but in top form on Tuesday

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised the resolve and mental strength of Nicklas Bendtner after the striker hit a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Porto.

Bendtner missed a series of chances in Saturday's win over Burnley but responded by leading his side to the Champions League last eight on Tuesday.

"It shows you how football can change very quickly," said Wenger.

"He came back with good focus and the same belief - that is one of his strengths as well."

Bendtner scored twice in the opening half and capped off his performance by scoring a late penalty as Arsenal overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit by hammering their opponents to earn a 6-2 victory on aggregate.

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"Nicklas had not lost the confidence, it remains relatively stable," added Wenger.

It was the first hat-trick of the Denmark international's career - and Bendtner insisted after the match that his atrocious finishing against the Clarets had not dented his self-belief.

"Every game I play I put it behind me as soon as it is finished," said the 22-year-old.

"Sometimes it is one of those days and against Porto I put it right. I am happy with the hat-trick but tomorrow we move on."

Wenger also hailed Samir Nasri, who capped an excellent performance with a superb goal, turning three defenders before firing in from an acute angle.

"What he has shown in the game, he has shown in training and I have expected that to come out," stated Wenger.

"He has talent and now he starts to be efficient - great players can assist and score goals, he is starting to do that now.

"We played fluent football with a positive start and the early goals gave us the belief we needed. We suffered a bit when we did not control the game at the start of the second half when we were not focused enough.

"Overall, though, we were good to watch and won with style."

Wenger all smiles after 'stylish' win

Wenger has insisted his team would not fear drawing Chelsea or Manchester United - if their English rivals are part of the quarter-final draw when it takes places on 19 March.

United take on AC Milan on Wednesday at Old Trafford with a 3-2 first-leg advantage, while Chelsea trail Inter Milan 2-1 ahead of the return fixture at Stamford Bridge on 16 March.

Wenger stated: "I don't have a choice but I do not want to say we absolutely do not want to draw an English team.

"Maybe it is a good opportunity, if we get them, to show we can do well."

In two matches against Chelsea this season, Arsenal have been beaten 3-0 and 2-0, while Sir Alex Ferguson's United side have defeated them 2-1 and 3-1 in their meetings.

However, Wenger is adamant the Gunners would have nothing to fear if they come up against either rival.

The Frenchman believes his side can prevail if drawn against their domestic rivals and added: "If we get them, we cannot do worse than we did in the championship - we can only do better.

"We will take the draw we get and also we do not have to make a negative obsession of not playing against Chelsea or Manchester United.

"We are happy to be in the last eight - it is never easy to be in the top eight in Europe. The negative side is you only have good teams now - Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, so it will be difficult.

"At the beginning of the season, nobody expected this team to be where we are but we showed we have mental strength, we have good desire and good quality.

"I believe it is more important on our side to continue to improve - there are still some weak moments in the game we can deal better with, so before we talk about Barcelona or Manchester United it is important we continue to improve, then we have a chance."

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The draw for the semi-finals will also take place on 19 March, with the first legs of the last-eight ties set to be played on 30/31 March and the second legs on 6/7 April.

The semi-final first legs are scheduled for 20/21 April, with the second legs one week later, while the final takes place at Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium on 22 May.

Meanwhile, Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira felt Tuesday's scoreline was not a fair reflection of the match.

"Arsenal turned the game around, put us under pressure and scored an early goal, that was the worst scenario we could imagine," commented Ferreira.

"They controlled the match but Porto deserved a bit more than we got. There were a couple of mistakes, which were decisive. You cannot do that against a team of such quality."



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see also
Arsenal 5-0 Porto (6-2)
09 Mar 10 |  Europe
FC Porto 2-1 Arsenal
17 Feb 10 |  Europe


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