sport

Lambert offers Benteke backing

Paul Lambert has backed Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke to play his way out of a lean spell in front of goal.

The powerful Belgian forward drew a blank on Saturday - along with the rest of his team-mates - as Villa were held to a 0-0 draw by Sunderland.

Benteke has now gone six games without troubling the scorers and was substituted for the first time by Lambert during the Black Cats stalemate.

Villa need their leading marksman from last season - a man who found the target on 23 occasions in all competitions - to rediscover his touch, and Lambert says he will continue to manage the 22-year-old carefully until confidence is fully restored.

He said: "Everyone has times when they find it hard. That's tough because then you have to make a decision, do you bring him off, do you start him?

"But you're doing it for the benefit of him as well. He'll come through it.

"It's important to try and keep him up. You don't chastise him, he's my player and you pick them up.

"That's the way I try and do it. I'm pretty sure his team-mates will try and do it.

"When you set yourself that standard, and it was an extraordinary standard, if you even blip out of it then it can be really noticeable.

"Deciding to sub him wasn't a hard decision. You make a decision for the good of the team and the club, he wasn't up to scratch in the way that he normally is. I decided that was it."