Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa match report: Christian Benteke proves difference with touch of class

Crystal Palace 0 Aston Villa 1

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The Independent Online

Aston Villa need Christian Benteke to be their match-winner and that is precisely what he did against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The pressure on Benteke, still recovering from a six-month injury lay-off, could weigh down even his broad shoulders. But here, in the bitter wind, he delivered the only quality in a poor game to decide it.

It was Aston Villa’s first league win since September and Benteke’s first goal since March. This was his first game back after a three-game ban but he showed what everyone knows he can do, scoring a goal entirely of his own making – tackle, run and finish - on a night when no other player did anything of note.

This was not a memorable match but Aston Villa, after nine winless games, will treasure these three points like precious winter fuel, as well as the promise that, with Benteke, better times lie ahead. “I have been fortunate in my own carer to play with some of the best in the world, and if he keeps progressing like this and learning, hopefully he’ll hit those heights,” said Paul Lambert, who can be forgiven the optimism about his most important player. “He is certainly a terrific footballer.”

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Benteke shields the ball from Ward

Villa did no attacking of note in the first half hour, but they did not need to because they had Benteke, who scored the only goal of the game after 32 minutes. Benteke robbed Scott Dann on the half-way line, wide on the left, and ran straight towards goal. Brede Hangeland backed off, so Benteke curled his shot around him into the far bottom corner. It was Benteke’s first goal in eight months but it came to him so easily it looked like he had never been away.

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Benteke celebrates his first goal of the season

Palace, in truth, did not offer much. There was a brief early flurry, when Brad Guzan had two routine saves to make, and another just before half-time. The introduction of Fraizer Campbell at the interval improved things, thanks to his running in behind, but there was little to suggest that they had the nous or quality required to win enough games to stay in the league. “We have just got to get back to basics,” said Neil Warnock, although even if Palace defended better they would still not score enough goals.

There were a few half-shouts for penalty kicks but nothing particularly plausible, and by the end of the game they almost looked more concerned with the officials than with their opponents, which is never the sign of a good side. They slung balls into the box but little more. Villa did not have to do very much to see out the win. Benteke had already done enough.

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