sport

Benteke eyes return to form

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke has revealed his relief at ending the longest goal drought of his career on Monday.

Belgium international Benteke netted for the first time in 13 matches as Villa lost 2-1 to Arsenal at Villa Park in the Premier League.

The 23-year-old has endured an arduous season so far after a healthy return of 19 goals saw him steal the headlines last term.

Benteke has spent three spells out through injury this term and struggled to rediscover his form of old, scoring just five times in 16 top-flight appearances.

But the forward admits it feels good to be on the score-sheet once again.

"It was nice to score again, of course," he told the Birmingham Mail. "It is not easy to play and not score.

"Your confidence is affected, so it was important to me to score for my confidence. I can bring my confidence now for the team again.

"I was disappointed we didn't take the three points against Arsenal but we showed great mentality and we have to try to start every game in the same way."

Stronger

Benteke, whose previous goal came in mid-September when Villa lost to Newcastle, believes he comes back with plenty to offer Paul Lambert's side.

"Yes, I am stronger and I think more about the team because without my team-mates I would never score," he added. "It is other people who put the focus on me.

"I play for the team and it is always about the team, not about me. Yes, I will try to score but I do this for the team, for the fans, everybody. That's the joy you get from scoring goals and I appreciate this."

Despite his rise to fame last season, Benteke understands he has plenty to learn and admits trying to force his way through injury was not the wisest choice.

Criticism

''I am still young," he said. "I'm still learning so I don't worry about what people say because this is football and I know if I work I will be better.

"I have to say I feel better than a few weeks ago because I wasn't 100 per cent. I had an injury that stopped me but since the Sunderland game I feel much better in myself.

"I made a mistake because I tried to play through that and I couldn't give everything. It was my knee."

Benteke endeared himself to the Villa faithful last term yet his lean spell this term has brought about heavy criticism, but the Belgian understands it is part-and-parcel of life as a professional.

"Criticism is part of football, it's part of life," Benteke claimed.

"People sometimes forget I am only 23. It doesn't matter if people criticise, I just need to do my thing and do what I can do and some days will be good and others will be bad. This is football. I have to deal with that.

"I feel more frustrated if I don't play well. I say to myself I could do more. It is the worst feeling I have after the game where I didn't shoot well, where I didn't score, where I didn't pass the ball or find the right pass."