BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Christian Benteke took his Premier League goal tally to nine this season – including three in his last three games – and reckons he is repaying manager Roy Hodgson’s faith.
John McGinn had put the visitors up early on but Benteke nodded home in the 32nd minute from a Tyrick Mitchell cross to equalise.
Villa came back, making it 2-1 almost immediately and leading right up until the 75th minute until a Wilfried Zaha deflected shot brought the game level and then a first-ever goal for Mitchell with six minutes remaining snatched the points.
“It’s credit to the manager for giving me the chance, and also to me, because I always believe in myself and in my abilities,” said Benteke. “I am really happy to play every week [but] I’m also giving the confidence back to the manager; it’s good for me and it’s good for the team.”
The striker is in the all-time Premier League top-10 list for headed goals, with 31.
“We didn’t have a good start in first 15 minutes,” he added. “We were a little bit too slow on the ball but after their first goal we reacted, we came back in the game but we conceded again, an easy goal.
“The second half we really showed our quality on the ball and I think it’s a fair result for us this afternoon. It was a great ball from Tyrick [for my goal], and I’m really delighted for him for his first goal. He deserved it; he’s been really good every time he plays. I’m really pleased for him.”
Benteke admitted that with the Eagles behind at the break, the pressure was off for him and his side who want to end the season on a high with games to follow against Arsenal at home on Wednesday and Liverpool away on Sunday.
“Obviously, we didn’t have anything to lose anymore we had to play with a little bit of courage on the ball, be a little bit brave and the second half was much, much better,” Benteke told Palace TV.
“We look forward for our [remaining] two games because we are going to play against two top teams. When we play at home [against Arsenal] we’re going to have a few fans, so it’s an exciting end of season for us.”
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