Premier League HOT or NOT: Christian Benteke and Marco Silva show spirit as Middlesbrough's hopes fade

Kevin Darling

Christian Benteke

Football can be cruel sometimes. It certainly has been to Benteke in the past 20 months, as he has helplessly observed his reputation as one of Europe’s most lethal strikers turn to mush.

One season at Liverpool saw him labelled as damaged goods, while his form since joining Crystal Palace has made him a figure of ridicule, especially amongst Reds fans who couldn’t believe they got most of their money back for him.

But this time it was their turn to feel football’s cruelty. The Belgian’s two tidy finishes in Palace’s 2-1 win at Anfield sent the Eagles towards safety and left the top-four hopes of their opponents looking precarious. Although he took it too far with his rock, paper, scissors celebration with fellow Anfield reject Mamadou Sakho.


Marc Pugh

The £100,000 fee that took this distinctly unfashionable midfielder to League One Bournemouth from Hereford in 2010 was at the time deemed “quite excessive” by Cherries chairman Jeff Mostyn. For a player whose previous clubs were Kidderminster, Bury, Shrewsbury and Luton, maybe he had a point.

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But then Mostyn would not have forseen, seven years later, the 30-year-old Pugh providing a goal, an assist and a man-of-the-match display in a 4-0 win in the Premier League. A legend for the Cherries in the lower leagues, Pugh has found himself on the fringes since their elevation to the top flight. But it was fitting that he was able to pop up with a decisive display in a thrashing of Middlesbrough that virtually assures the club’s status among the big boys for a third year. In hindsight, Pugh was probably the best £100,000 Bournemouth have ever spent.

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Marco Silva

The Portuguese manager may have been willing to reluctantly wave goodbye to his admirable home record when he arrived in England three and a half months ago. Stretching back to March 2014, Silva had gone two full seasons unbeaten on his manor. But that was in charge of Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos – two sides who don’t lose many home games anyway – and he was moving to Hull City, who had won once in nine attempts at the KC Stadium prior to his arrival.

Seven wins and one draw from eight home games later, it turns out Marco’s magic is more powerful than even he could have dreamed possible. Despite being reduced to 10 men after just 25 minutes of Saturday’s match against Watford, the Tigers scored two second half goals (including a Le Tisser-esque stunner from Sam Clucas) to see off the Hornets and stay out of the relegation zone. And their next home game is against Sunderland.

NOT

Saido Berahino

The transfer chase for the 23-year-old striker was long, dramatic and fiercely contested, but in the end Stoke City got the prize that Tottenham, Newcastle, West Ham and many others coveted. So it will be rather disappointing to the Potters that, 11 games into his new role, Berahino still hasn’t scored.

And judging by the two very presentable chances he squandered in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by strugglers Swansea, he’s not going to score unless something drastic changes. Stoke manager Mark Hughes says his £12m signing needs to be “more selfish”. If only Berahino could channel the same energy into his goalscoring as he put into leaving West Brom.

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Middlesbrough

Well that’s that then. Thanks for, erm, coming? We’ll treasure the memories of this year we’ve spent together. And we’ll never forget the goals – all 23 of them. It was kind of necessary that we treasured every single one of those. A Teesside season that once showed promise sunk to its nadir as Steve Agnew’s (oh and thanks, especially, for Steve Agnew) side were thumped 4-0 by Bournemouth. They’re not down yet, of course. Not mathematically. But the harrowing defeat Dean Court leaves Boro nine points adrift of safety – which is almost as many as the aforementioned number of goals they have scored all season.

Divock Origi

Let’s first be clear that it’s not Divock’s fault Liverpool mustered just one shot on target against Crystal Palace at home in a game they desperately needed to win. But sadly, he seems to be emblematic of the Reds’ current problems. With an injury crisis depriving Jurgen Klopp of key men Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson (and Daniel Sturridge, but that’s to be expected), it’s becoming apparent that his squad does not have the capability to cope with the strain.

Few Reds fans would have complained when Klopp chose to dispense with Benteke and retain Origi in the summer, but the younger Belgian seems better suited to a supersub role than being the focal point of the attack. Against Palace, Liverpool needed Benteke.

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