Boss Paul Lambert today insisted he was never going to risk Christian Benteke’s fitness and rush him back for Villa.
The claret and blues slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham yesterday as Benteke made his return from a month out with a hip injury. A second-half substitute, he missed a golden chance when he headed over just minutes after replacing Libor Kozak.
He roused Villa Park and unsettled Tottenham before the visitors killed the game with Roberto Soldado’s classy goal.
But, despite Kozak’s ineffective display, Lambert insisted 22-year-old Benteke was not fit enough to start.
“Christian has trained four days in a month. It’s unfair to expect him to fit right in from the beginning,” he said. “He has only trained a couple of days with us and the same with Belgium. It was not enough to throw him into that magnitude of game. Plus I am happy with Libor. It was never an option.
“But he got half-an-hour and it will do him the world of good.”
Benteke planted a free header over just three minutes after coming on with Villa behind to Andros Townsend’s fortunate goal.
But the game was marred by assistant referee David Bryan being struck by a smoke bomb thrown from the visiting fans as they celebrated Townsend’s opener.
Spurs’ win ended Villa’s three match unbeaten run in the Premier League and extended Tottenham’s unbeaten streak over the claret and blues to 11 games.
But Lambert felt his team deserved more and refused to criticise them following the defeat.
He said: “Sometimes you come away from a game knowing you haven't given it a go but I can't fault the lads for the way they went about it.”