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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 11 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Sep 24, 2006

Agbonlahor facing international dilemma

Aston Villa's young star Gabriel Agbonlahor has still to decide whether to pledge his international future to either England or Nigeria.

Agbonlahor, who scored the opening goal in Saturday's 2-0 win over Charlton, is wanted by Nigeria - his father was born in the African country - but has already played for England at youth and under-20 level.

The Birmingham-born player has made a massive impression under new Villa boss Martin O'Neill with his pace on the right flank even though he had previously operated primarily as a centre-forward.

Nineteen-year-old Agbonlahor said: 'I just want to keep playing my football, try to stay in the Villa first team and see what happens.

'I could play for Nigeria because my dad was born there but I could also play for England and have done so already with the youth and under-20 sides.

'I've always wanted to play at full level for England and the under-21s would be the next step for me. I would love to get an under-21 cap. If England comes up, I'd prefer that.

'I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of playing for Nigeria in the long term. I've not heard anything directly from them but there have been quotes in the papers in Nigeria from an FA official about me.

'But I just want to play as many Premiership games as possible this season. I don't want any distractions and things have been going well for me so far this season.'

Agbonlahor is relieved to have broken his scoring duck for the season and admits it was special to find the net at Villa Park as victory over the Addicks lifted O'Neill's side into fourth spot in the Premiership.

He said: 'I scored on my debut against Everton last season but to score at Villa Park is a dream come true. I had played in the opening five games this season and felt I had been unlucky not to score in each of them.

'Hopefully I can now score a few more. My preferred position is down the middle but, if my speed down the wings helps the team, I'll play there. I'm happy to play anywhere Martin O'Neill wants me to play.'

Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen praised the contribution of Agbonlahor and another striker in Luke Moore who has used on the right flank by O'Neill.

He said: 'Luke and Gabby will cause problems to any team. They have still got some way to go and hopefully there will be room for even more improvement but at the moment they are playing really well.

'Defenders are pulling off them and are really afraid of their pace and they scored two cracking goals against Charlton. That will give them even more confidence for the games ahead.

'They have been given a chance from the first games and really proved to the manager they are here to stay and are really good players in the making.

'Not many players have got Gabby's kind of pace. He is up at Thierry Henry's level in terms of pace.

'He still hasn't got the skill of Henry but he is still a young player and his abilities will get better and he is a great asset for the future.'

Charlton, without an away league win since October, have lost five of their opening six matches under new manager Iain Dowie but striker Darren Bent is confident their fortunes will take an upturn sooner rather than later.

He said: 'We haven't had the rub of the green this season. It's been disappointing. To be fair to Villa, they have been playing really well and are a different team under Martin O'Neill.

'At the moment we seem to be playing well in patches and then the opposition are scoring goals at the wrong times. All we can do is keep plugging away, stay as tight unit and then we will be fine.

'The away form is not getting to the lads. No one is really thinking about that. Iain Dowie has brought in his players and they have gelled really well.

'As long as we carry on and keep believing, we can do it. There are so many teams in this division that go through losing spells and then all of a sudden they turn it around and I am sure we can do that.'