World Cup qualifiers: Roberto Martinez hails Christian Benteke after hat-trick heroics for Belgium in Gibraltar rout

Benteke replaced the injured Romelu Lukaku and repaid his manager’s faith in style

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The Independent Football

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has heaped praise on Christian Benteke after the Crystal Palace striker scored a hat-trick to overcome Gibraltar 6-0 in Almancil. 

Benteke replaced the injured Romelu Lukaku and repaid his manager’s faith after just seven seconds by scoring the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history to set the Belgians on their way towards a routine victory. 

Martinez, who appeared to suggest Benteke’s form has improved since leaving Liverpool for £30m this summer, said: “I wanted to use Christian - just because I have seen him very sharp. In training I have seen him when he was first called up and now. 

“When he was first called up, he was almost rushed. He had a really poor pre-season, he couldn't settle where he was. He was thinking about the next move. 

“Now he is a completely different player. I have seen him strong I have seen him match fit. I wanted to see him today how he could play in a game where we were going to spend most of the time in their half. 

“I wanted to see, movement, his hold up play. Not just how he would be in the box so I was pleased. 

“I was pleased with the manner that he started in the game, pleased with the contribution, but scoring a hat-trick. and contributing the way that he did is going to be really good for him and he deserves that.

“I think it would be wrong to highlight one player today. I think if it was an individual performance it would have been very damaging. 

“I think it has been a good collective performance from everyone, from first minute to the last. We never lost the sense of professionalism and doing things for each other.”