Sunday 20 May 2018

Lambert: Benteke will shine again

Christian Benteke will miss the World Cup because of a torn Achilles tendon
Christian Benteke will miss the World Cup because of a torn Achilles tendon

Paul Lambert expects Christian Benteke to have more chances to shine on the world stage after his World Cup dreams were ended by a torn Achilles.

The striker suffered the injury in training this week, robbing Aston Villa of one of their key players for the end of the season and also denying Benteke a place in the Belgium squad in Brazil this summer.

Belgium have qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time since 2002 and, with a generation of hugely-talented young players having emerged, the Red Devils have been tipped to do well.

Villa boss Lambert said: " No one knew the extent of the injury and we had to wait and see what it was. We were hoping it was just a strain but weren't sure until he went to the hospital.

"He's okay at the moment but whether that's just a feeling of shock I'm not sure. He knows he's going to miss the World Cup but he's in a generation of Belgium players you think will qualify for more tournaments."

Benteke's absence, plus Gabriel Agbonlahor's failure to recover from a stomach bug, meant Lambert gave Grant Holt only his second start for Villa in Saturday's Premier League clash with Fulham.

Holt scored with a second-half header but it was not enough to prevent Fulham, who began the day bottom of the table, claiming a crucial 2-1 victory.

Kieran Richardson opened the scoring with a terrific strike into the top corner and, after Holt had equalised, substitute Hugo Rodallega headed the winner four minutes from time.

It was Villa's 10th home defeat of the season - only Fulham have lost more - and the fans made their feelings clear at the final whistle.

Lambert said: " We can't keep doing this. We have to rectify the home form, there's no two ways about it.

"Away from home, it's well documented we've had our best performances, but you can't keep losing at home.

"You have to see a game through. We know the size of this fan base. They won't accept us sitting behind the game. I would rather try to win a game than not.

"There's no rocket science formula. You have to win football matches, keep a clean sheet and thrive on the atmosphere generated. It takes big players to play in front of a big fan base."

Fulham started with teenager Cauley Woodrow up front but manager Felix Magath introduced Rodallega at half-time and the Colombian repaid his manager's faith.

It was Rodallega's first appearance since February, and his fifth goal in 13 games this season.

Magath said: " I was not always so lucky with him but he has shown in training he is in good shape. I asked him if he comes in will he be in good shape and he said yes and that he will score."

Rodallega dedicated his goal to the Fulham supporters, who travelled to Villa Park in large numbers and gave their team terrific backing.

He told "I'm happy because I waited a long time for the opportunity. Steve Sidwell told me, 'Hugo, this is your 45 minutes'.

"I tried to help the team and then when I scored I was so happy. I was thinking that my family's there, with the supporters, and of course the fans.

"The fans have been unbelievable with me. All the time they call my name. This is for the fans and I want to say, 'Thank you'."

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport