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Christian Benteke notches crucial goal to sink hosts

MATCH WINNER: Christian Benteke of Aston Villa

UNDER PRESSURE Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace and claimed a much needed three points in a basement battle thanks to a goal by Christian Benteke (December 2).

Villa who have surrendered leads in recent games were able to hold on at Selhurst Park.

Both sides traded early punches without landing a telling blow. The only meaningful incident was the early departure of Villa's Joe Cole who had to be replaced by Carlos Sanchez in the 9th minute due to an injury.

Just when it seemed Cole was getting his career back on track after scoring at the weekend, his injury curse has struck again.

Just past the half hour mark, the ball was played back to Scott Dann. Benteke back from suspension, robbed him of the ball, raced clear on goal and slotted the ball past the helpless Julian Speroni to give Villa the lead.

That was Villa’s first shot on target and it was against the run of play as they had been under the cosh after a wave of attacks by Palace led by Yannick Bolasie and Wilfred Zaha on the flanks.

After the break, Bolasie put a cross into the Villa box but it was just behind Marouane Charmakh, who was unable to direct his header on target.

A through ball was played to home substitute Fraizer Campbell but before he could get on the end of it Brad Guzan was first to the ball and cleared it. Campbell caught him as he followed through and was booked.

Moments later Villa's Andreas Weimann wriggled his way into the Palace area and took a shot, which was saved by Speroni.

Palace continued to press but there was no end product as Zaha’s decision making on the ball was poor. He only managed one decent cross into the Villa box; the reason why Manchester United sent him out on loan were evident from his display here.

As Palace looked for parity, Villa led by centre-half Jores Okore battened the hatches. Benteke also put in a shift, often tracking back to relieve the pressure on his defence.

Guzan was commanding in his area but in truth he did not have to make any saves other than the routine catching of the ball.

Palace simply did not offer enough and once again Chamakh was mostly invisible as he offered little up front. Though Bolasie offered some threat, he was frustrating as well with his use of the ball.

Villa have managed to take four massive points from back-to-back away games against teams who are around them in the bottom half of the table.

Villa boss Paul Lambert said: “I have been fortunate to play with some wonderful players, if Benteke continues like this he would be a great player. He came back today and gave everybody a lift.

"Our young centre halves were also good. Villa is a massive club with great expectations from their fans. We are sat in 12th now and hopefully we can keep building on that.”

Disappointed Palace manager, Neil Warnock, said: “We just lacked that bit of quality.

"Benteke held them together. I was disappointed about the way we gave the goal away. The corners were poor tonight and the gambling in the box.”

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