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Lambert hails 'top-class' striker Benteke

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has heaped further praise on Christian Benteke and said he believes the Belgian striker can still be a Premier League player with the club next season.

For the second time in 2012-13, Benteke scored twice on Merseyside - but this time, his efforts resulted in only a point at Everton, when a repeat of the pre-Christmas victory at Liverpool was both needed and within Villa's grasp.

"To play the way he is playing and get the goals he has scored, he has been absolutely terrific for this club," Lambert said.

"He has just turned 22 and gone into a new league and adapted. It will be totally different from Belgium, where he is playing with a top national team. Has it surprised me? A bit and half, I would say.

"He does not seem to have had a dip. His performances have been at a really high standard. He has done great. He is a really humble guy, which will stand him in good stead. He has been top-class for us - really, really good."

Villa's surrender of a 3-1 lead - with the Everton equaliser coming in stoppage time - leaves them precariously positioned, with games against Arsenal and Manchester City looming.

But Lambert is adamant there is hope for Villa in their survival battle and is confident happier times will lie ahead if they win it.

"What happened really frustrates you but, coming here, nobody gave us an earthly chance," he added.

"The second-half performance the other night [at home to Newcastle] gave us a lot of heart, and we continued that here for the full game.

"You never stop learning in football, certainly if you're losing. You have to take knocks along the way. It is how you can come back from them that makes you a lot better.

"If we keep going like this, we will win more than not, that is for sure. That is all you can ask for. If we can get through this period, we will kick right on."

Lambert said he felt Villa deserved "a lot of credit" for the way they had played at Goodison, but bemoaned the familiar defensive failings that allowed Everton a route back into the game.

Villa were once more undone by a corner, and the manager said: "It is never a blame culture - everybody knows what happened.

"It is man for man. It is simple. It is a simple game made complicated by different things. You pick him up. It is concentration and knowing who your man is."

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