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Exclusive player interview: Benteke on perfect penalties

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Exclusive player interview: Benteke on perfect penalties


Christian Benteke has already claimed Dwight Yorke's record as Villa's highest scorer in a single Premier League season.

Now, it seems, the Belgian boy is intent on emulating the Calypso Kid's penchant for penalty-taking.

The 23-year-old striker's second-half penalty winner in the home match against West Bromwich Albion was reminiscent of Yorke's cheeky-chip spot kicks against Sheffield United and Arsenal in the 1990s.

Benteke strode forward, checked his run, waited for keeper Ben Foster to dive left and then stroked the ball nonchalantly into the other corner.

It was audacity in the extreme.

He could have been forgiven for being on edge, given the 3-3 scoreline at the time and the fact that his previously penalty had been brilliantly saved by Everton's Tom Howard last October.

But he insists: "I didn't feel nervous at all. Sometimes players have to take responsibility and I felt confident enough to do it.

"I will always take a penalty. Sometimes I might make a mistake, but the more I take the better I will get.

"It's the same in open play. If I miss a chance I don't think about giving the ball away to avoid missing again. I just think about putting things right."

The miss against Everton, following one on the opening day at Arsenal when Benteke headed in the rebound after a Wojciech Szczesny save, had even prompted Yorke to suggest manager Paul Lambert should consider relieving the Belgium international of penalty-taking duties.

The towering Belgian's response was to work harder still at perfectly the art of beating the keeper from 12 yards - with a little help from his American pal.

"I want to say thanks to Brad Guzan because after each training session I practise taking penalties against him," he says.

"When I took the one against West Brom I put the scenario in my head as if I was in training and tried to do the same. I had worked on that one with Brad but I also practice other types of penalties."


Benteke is fully aware that when he checks his run-up as he did against the Baggies, the keeper may not always commit himself.

But in that case the solution is straightforward.

"As long as I hit the ball hard enough it should go in," he points out.

"Even if the keeper goes to the right side, the ball usually moves faster than him. But I'm not going to say what the next one will be like - we will see when the moment arrives!"

Strangely enough, Benteke wasn't the penalty-taker for his previous club Racing Genk, where the expert was his striking partner Jelle Vossen.

But he had no hesitation in assuming the role in claret and blue, scoring three times from the spot last season.

He finished the term with a remarkable 19 in the league and 23 in total.

His 2013-14 haul is currently a more modest eight - seven league and one cup - after a difficult second season blighted by hip and knee injuries.

But there's no doubt he is getting back in the groove.

"If I can help the guy next to me to score I'm happy," he says.

"We're all looking for the same thing - three points.

"I never imagined I would have such a good season and I'm happy with what I did, although I knew there would be some tough times.

"That happened this season when I was injured and when I didn't score for a long time.

"But now I'm feeling better, which is good both for me and for the team.

"I started this season well but my hip injury at Norwich was hard to take because it was the first one I'd had for a long time. I didn't know how to react, and I tried to come back too quickly.

"But the manager told me to go back to Belgium, work on it, and come back fit.

"Then I injured my knee, which obviously didn't help. But I'm fit now, and playing well."


Benteke has scored some magnificent goals during his 20 months with the club, but refuses to pick a favourite.

"For me, every one is special," he says.

"But I really enjoyed my hat-trick against Sunderland at the end of last season because it was such an important game for us. The atmosphere that night was really good."

He has also enjoyed his two visits to Liverpool, scoring twice in last season's 3-1 win as well as setting up a goal for Andi Weimann with a brilliant back-heel, and heading Villa's second in the recent 2-2 draw at Anfield.

"It was a great feeling to score goals and do good things in front of the Kop. Although we didn't win this time, that game showed we are capable of playing well against the big teams.

"We have shown some good form at times this season but the important thing is to do it right from the first minute, not just in the first half, the second half or for 20 minutes.

"But we are still a young team and it's something we can work on. I want to help the team to try and get three points in every game.

"And if I can score a few more goals, that would be great."

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By @AVFCOfficial 15th February 2014
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