Sheer relief of Aston Villa victory over Sunderland has Paul Lambert dancing with joy

Villa manager can't hide his emotions as rout allows a rare moment of unbridled delight

The Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert, has tipped hat-trick hero Christian Benteke to enjoy a big future in the game - but still passed man-of-the-match honours to Matthew Lowton following the 6-1 rout of Sunderland.

Villa's biggest win since 2008 not only took them five points clear of third-bottom Wigan in the battle to avoid the drop, it also improved their goal difference to the extent they overhauled Newcastle.

Lambert had Benteke to thank following his second-half heroics, which underlined why the Belgian is one of the most sought-after young players in the game. "You can't speak highly enough of him," said Lambert. "He keeps his feet on the ground and is hungry to have success as a footballer.

"I thought we needed a striker like that. He is a big lad and everyone can see his technique is fabulous. He played a lot games for Genk. He is Belgium's main target player and they are going to qualify for the World Cup.

"People forget he is 22. He has a big career in front of him as long as he keeps working hard."

It still was not enough for his manager to select him as Villa's stand-out performer on a dream night. "He was alright but Matt Lowton was the best player on the pitch by an absolute mile."

It looked like being another difficult evening for the Midlands club after they allowed Danny Rose to level within two minutes of Ron Vlaar's first-half piledriver. But Lowton's break created the chance Andreas Weimann finished off just before the interval and once Benteke had destroyed Sunderland, Gabriel Agbonlahor rubbed it in a minute from time to become Villa's highest-ever Premier League goalscorer.

"I hope goal difference is not important but it could be," said Lambert. "It brings everybody else back into it and pulls us away from Wigan.

"The situation is better than it was a few months ago. We have been in this position for most of the season but they have handled it brilliantly. They have got their heads down and kept going. They don't look like a team that is down there."

Typically, Sunderland manager Paolo di Canio pulled no punches afterwards as his side's two-game winning run came to a shuddering halt, apologising to the visiting supporters for a performance he branded "unacceptable".

"There were two different teams on the field," he said. "Aston Villa had a ferocity. They had desire and ambition, like it was the last chance of their lives. For us, after two wins in a row, our stomach was a bit full. When you eat a lot, you relax, you sleep.

"We have to apologise to the supporters. You can lose with a big gap but the way it happened was not acceptable. Now we have to work with blood in our eyes."

To compound a terrible night, Sunderland also had Stéphane Sessègnon dismissed for a second-half challenge on Yacouba Sylla which threatens to rule him out for the remainder of the season, although Di Canio has confirmed the club will appeal the red card.

"There was nothing in it," he said. "The leg was not straight. He didn't want to cause any damage to his opponent. The referee fell in a trap. It wasn't a nasty action."

Di Canio also indicated he was not concerned at the abuse he received from the Villa fans, who have not forgotten his 'going down' gesture at them when he was Swindon manager earlier in the campaign. "I don't mind. It is not an issue for me," he said. You can add another two thousand bad words to the millions that I received in my football career."

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices