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Benjani hailed

MATT Taylor has paid a glowing tribute to Portsmouth team-mate Benjani Mwaruwari — describing the Zimbabwe skipper as the hardest working striker he has known.

Benjani’s absence from the Portsmouth team on Wednesday

night at Newcastle, where Portsmouth tripped up 3-0 in the Carling Cup third round, served to underline his value to manager Harry Redknapp.

The £4,1million former Auxerre player was outstanding in last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by champions Chelsea and Taylor insists: “It is money well spent on him.”

Benjani looks certain to be recalled at home to Premiership new boys Reading tomorrow after being rested at St James’ Park.

He is looking an entirely different prospect to the player who had to wait 15 matches for his first goal after making the switch from French football last season.

His goal at Chelsea was the 28-year-old’s third of the season and wingback Taylor believes supporters are now seeing Benjani at his very best.

Taylor said: “Benji works hard and it was nice to see him get a goal at Chelsea because he is the most honest footballer you are ever going to meet.

“He is going to work for 90 minutes, he pops up with goals and in him, Andy Cole, Kanu and Lualua we have four very good forwards.

“He gives 110% every game and you can’t ask for anything more. The fans are seeing that now.

“I don’t think I’ve played with a striker who works so hard. Ask Chelsea’s John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho if they have been in a game and they’ll tell you.

“But he’s not the only one who works tirelessly for the cause. We’ve got 11 people who have undoubted ability on the pitch, but obviously that’s not all you need.”

Portsmouth’s efforts were in vain on Wednesday, when they lost in the rain-ravaged cup-tie against Newcastle.

Conditions were close to farcical as the Magpies prevailed on a sodden pitch.

Manager Redknapp said: “How can the players have played any football in those kind of conditions?

“It was a joke but the referee has played the game and we had get on with it. It was the same for both teams and we have wasted an opportunity.”

Portsmouth made five changes for the Magpies clash, with Cole, Andy O’Brien and LuaLua all called up to face their old club and Sean Davis and David Thompson returning in midfield. Pedro Mendes, Sol Campbell, Kanu and Glen Johnson were rested along with Benjani.

With skipper Dejan Stefanovic still doubtful through knee trouble, Redknapp is ready to put Wednesday’s defeat behind him and recall his regulars to face Reading. — ITV Football.

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