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

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The Independent Football

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."