Dave Woodhall on Villa’s one man show.
It’s odd to watch world-class football in the middle of 90 minutes of dross but on Tuesday night I saw what might have been the most complete performance from a forward I’ve ever witnessed. It was the type of display that had me and the bit-older-than-me bloke in the next seat, who probably described me in the same fashion, going back over decades for any comparison we could think of.
Andy Gray – great goalscorer but that was all he could do (!). Peter Withe – a great all-rounder and very under-rated on the ball but possessing nowhere near as much skill. Get rid of those two and you’re going back to Gerry Hitchens, who was before my time and if you don’t believe that then I don’t wish to know you.
Whoever he could be compared to best, Christian Benteke not only showed that he has talent fit to shine at the highest level, but he also saved Villa from an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a poor QPR side.
Villa should have had the game won by the break, then they vanished for half an hour after the restart, by which time Rangers had gone into the lead for the second time and were looking comfortable. Enter Benteke, and before you could wonder why he was taking a free kick 25 yards out it was curling over the wall and clipping the Holte End post before ending up in the back of the net.
I can’t remember him taking one before and he might never again but this was his night. He could have won the world heavyweight championship, an Oscar and the boat race on his own. If I’d got home and found him in bed with my wife I’d have put a blanket over him in case he got cold.
Apart from those three moments of genius the game was shaped by three defensive errors, with Kieron Richardson at the heart of them all. Tim Sherwood said yesterday that he was having to hurry players back who he would otherwise have allowed more time to recover from injury and Richardson didn’t seem fully fit in what would be the worst performance seen at Villa Park all season if you discounted Ben Foster’s match-winning exploits against the Albion.
Villa salvaged a point when they should have been looking at getting three and we must now look ahead to Saturday’s game at White Hart Lane as an attempt to get a bonus. Spurs’ season took off when they were the recipients of some outrageous refereeing decisions at Villa Park last November. Karmic retribution is long overdue and might help drag Villa out of danger. One thing’s for certain – whatever happens, Benteke won’t be the striker getting all the attention.