It’s not been an easy season for Christian Benteke. Partially disrupted by injury and undoubtedly influenced by Crystal Palace’s need to avoid relegation, the former Liverpool striker has netted just twice in the Premier League this term, bumping him down to a miserly fifth in the Eagles’ top flight scoring charts for 2017/18.
Benteke couldn’t bring his drought to an end against Manchester United last night as Roy Hodgson’s side missed out on invaluable points in the relegation scrap through Nemanja Matic’s stunning stoppage time winner, but the Belgium international’s Man of the Match performance did suggest he’s coming to form at just the right time for Palace, and that his mindset is in the right place for a tough run of fixtures against top six sides.
That couldn’t always be said about Benteke during his time at Selhurst Park, when his sheer size and style of play as a target man hasn’t always been backed up by his enthusiasm in leading the line, often failing to chase lost causes and switching off in defensive situations.
But perhaps because he was facing such a high calibre of opponent, Benteke brought his a-game last night and was a critical influence at both ends of the pitch; in addition to assisting Andros Townsend for the opening goal, the 27-year-old won twelve aerial duels – many inside his own box – made three tackles and five clearances. Those key defensive contributions were epitomised in the 74th minute by a goal line clearance to keep the scores at 2-1.
Of course, Palace just couldn’t hold on and Benteke couldn’t find his third goal of the season, but it’s important for the Eagles and their star striker to see the positives from last night’s performance.
The good news for Hodgson ahead of clashes with Chelsea and Liverpool is that Benteke has shown can be a big-game player for Palace and he’s prepared to put in selfless performances.
In the relegation zone with just nine games left of the season, there are no free hits for the south Londoners anymore and they’ll need to get something from those games – Benteke looks ready to play a huge part.