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The Belgian striker helped inspire Villa to a vital win over Reading last weekend, and has received special praise from his manager for his contributions this term

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has hailed Christian Benteke's debut season in the Premier League as exceptional.

The Belgian striker scored in the Villan's 2-1 win at Reading on Saturday, a goal which took his tally for the campaign to 16 goals in all competitions.

Villa's victory at the Madejski Stadium moved them out of the relegation zone on goal difference, and Lambert was quick to praise the 22-year-old's impact.

He told The Scotsman: "If he gets 20 goals, then he's doing something good for us.

"The big guy, over the course of the whole season, has been excellent for someone just 22 years of age.

"I don't need to say much to Christian. He is a young guy still learning but his performances have been exceptional."

Benteke has become an integral part of a Belgian national side that currently sits top of their World Cup qualifying group, and Lambert feels he has the ability to help seal his country's place at the 2014 Finals.

He added: "He has been massive to us and also scores goals for a very talented Belgium side.

"For his age, he has played so many big games already, internationals, and it looks like Belgium will qualify for the World Cup."