Saturday 17 March 2018

Benteke brace eases Villa fears

Aston Villa 3-2 Everton

Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood
Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood

Nick Mashiter

Tim Sherwood hailed his Aston Villa heroes and insisted Fabian Delph is the best midfielder in England. Christian Benteke improved his record to 11 goals in nine games as Villa maintained their two-point gap above the Premier League drop zone with victory over Everton.

The striker's first-half brace gave them a deserved lead and Tom Cleverley added a third after Romelu Lukaku's penalty gave Everton hope.

England boss Roy Hodgson watched Villa's win and Sherwood believes Delph would have impressed. "I just think there were some heroic performances out there. I thought Fabian Delph showed why he's probably the best midfield player in the country at the moment," he said. "I wouldn't swap him for anyone in the mess we're in.

"He leaves nothing on the field. It's not only about energy and desire, it's about flair and imagination, he's got the whole package. He's a warrior, there isn't a lot he can't do. I see Roy Hodgson was up there, I think he would have been very impressed with the two midfield players, Cleverley as well."

Sunderland's 2-1 win over Southampton kept the pressure on Sherwood's side but he believes they have momentum after climbing to 14th in the table.

He added: "I think there's a bit of belief in there now. I think they've improved performance-wise since I came here and they're looking like a Tim Sherwood side at the moment.

"What's that? It wins! I think we've got pace, flair, goalscorers - we do score goals. But there's an awful lot of hard work to be done, three more wins and we'll get over the line."

A one-goal loss flattered the Toffees after Phil Jagielka had pulled a goal back in stoppage-time. It was their first defeat in seven games but manager Roberto Martinez admitted he feared they may come unstuck following last week's 3-0 win over Manchester United.

He said: "It happens in football, the intensity and tempo we had in our last game maybe made it a bit difficult to start the game in the same level. I did feel in the first half we were second best in everything we did.

"It's fair to say Villa were the better side in the first half and we were the better side in the second.

"The reaction was very good, there are dressing-rooms which maybe cannot react or find that intensity but we did that and performed in a completely different manner."

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