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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Lambert lauds Villa show

Published 16/08/2014 | 21:41

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Paul Lambert heaped praise on his Aston Villa side after their 1-0 win at Stoke

Manager Paul Lambert felt Aston Villa were "outstanding" throughout the team in their 1-0 Barclays Premier League opening-day victory at Stoke.

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Forward Andreas Weimann grabbed the headlines by notching the only goal of the game in the 50th minute with a shot that squeezed in off goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

But Lambert was keen after the final whistle to put emphasis on the collective effort that had seen Villa claim what was their first competitive win on the road since January 1.

He said: "I don't like singling out individuals.

"But in terms of the whole team - I thought the back four were outstanding.

"I thought (Aly) Cissokho, playing his first game for us, was outstanding.

"I could go through everyone. I thought Gabby's (Gabriel Agbonlahor's) pace was a threat for the whole game.

"The three lads in the middle of the pitch, their energy was great.

"The whole team performance was excellent. Really good things - a lot of pluses."

Having seen his side pull off an impressive 3-1 win at Arsenal at the start of a 2013/14 campaign which ended with seven defeats in nine games and a 15th-placed finish, Lambert sounded a note of caution over Saturday's result.

But he also emphasised that the feeling this time was "different".

Put to him that the triumph at the Britannia Stadium made for a decent beginning to the season, Lambert said: "I said the same last year.

"Our season went into freefall after we beat Chelsea (their last game before those final nine matches).

"The injuries to Christian (Benteke) and Libor (Kozak) never helped us, and we just stayed up in the last few games.

"But this year, it is a totally different feeling. I thought we were outstanding today.

"I thought we deserved to win the game - after an initial 10-minute period, I thought we were excellent, everybody, the whole team."

Lambert now has Roy Keane alongside him in the dug-out after the former Manchester United midfielder was appointed his assistant manager over the summer.

Keane lived up to his fiery reputation by jumping up a few times and making his feelings known.

And Lambert, who insisted he was "not bothered" that Villa fans could be heard chanting Keane's name rather than his own, said: "I'm not going to tell him to sit down - I'll let someone else do that!

"Roy has been brilliant since he has been here, a massive help to myself and the team.

"I'm pretty sure anyone who knows him or saw him playing the game of football, knows he wants to win.

"His own career was outstanding, close to one of the best players ever in the Premier League. And for me, as an assistant manager and a friend, he has been outstanding."

The goal came about when the ball broke off Stoke defender Erik Pieters to Weimann, who took a poor first touch. But it came back to him via a combination of Pieters' team-mates Marc Wilson and Stephen Ireland, teeing the Austria international up to fire in off Begovic.

Potters boss Mark Hughes admitted his men should have done better.

"It is all about making sure if someone makes a mistake or the ball ricochets, then the very next thing is done correctly and we were probably guilty of consecutive errors there," Hughes said.

"Inevitably, goals come at the end of three or four mistakes.

"We need to be better than that. It is a wake up call for us."

Stoke secured their best-ever Premier League finish of ninth under Hughes last term, and the Welshman added: "There was a lot of expectation on us today and maybe that has been tempered somewhat, and maybe that is no bad thing, because we know this is a season when we are going to have to work hard."

Potters forward Bojan Krkic was among several players on the field making their competitive debuts for their new clubs after summer transfers.

Regarding the 23-year-old Spaniard's performance, Hughes said: "It was important he got some game time. He showed glimpses in certain situations.

"We need to be able to find him in those areas more often. We will have to make sure he plays in the right games against the right opposition and we get the best out of him. Today we weren't able to."

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