Aston Villa secured a 1-0 win against Birmingham City, ensuring the did the double over their local rivals to give a boost to hopes of finishing inside a play-off place. The game was littered with action, none more so than the disgusting scenes involving a spectator and Jack Grealish inside the opening ten minutes. However, the Villa captain ensured he kept his cool, responding in fine style with a karmic goal to silence the Blues of Birmingham.
Story of the match
There are few games that have such a hostile flag to their names than the Midlands derby between Birmingham and Villa, with tempers flaring on and off the pitch between two bitter rivals. The 12pm kick-off was the perfect summation of just that, with shocking scenes overshadowing the work of both teams on the pitch.
Just nine minutes into the match Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was hauled down to the floor after a Birmingham City spectator ran onto the pitch and threw a punch from behind. The sheer character and tenacity of the midfielder to not retaliate to the disgraceful incident should be commended, with the resulting performance one of the highest-order as Villa did the double on the Blues.
Indeed, this was a game that was all about the 23-year-old midfielder, who let his performance do the talking after the incident, delivering a karmic strike in the 67th minute to silence the home crowd.
Villa had threatened to break the deadlock much earlier, with Grealish producing a pinpoint pass for Anwar El Ghazi, whose effort was met with a strong save by Lee Camp inside the 22nd minute. It proved to be the best chance of the half, with little else of note such was the shock at the incident.
Birmingham came out brightly after the interval, retaining possession in an attempt to build up ahead of steam. However, failure to test Steer would be their downfall, with Jack Grealish delivering the killer blow to silence the home crowd just past the hour mark. Picking up possession from Neil Taylor just outside the Birmingham box, Grealish unleashed an accurate shot into the bottom corner from 16 yards out, immersing himself in the away crowd in the celebrations.
Villa could have doubled their advantage with 13 minutes left after Conor Hourihane saw his effort cannon off the bar, before Craig Gardner threatened to create some late drama of his own before blazing over from eight yards out and heading wide in the dying embers of the match. In truth, a single Grealish goal seemed an apt result such was the manner of the 23-year-old's performance which occurred in the most challenging of conditions.
The result sees Villa keep their hopes of a play-off place alive, with four points separating them from the top-six. Meanwhile, Birmingham sit in 11th place, a point behind.
Takeaways from the match
Unfazed Jack Grealish key to Villa success
Despite the ordeal with the fan in the first-half, Jack Grealish delivered a professional and mature performance, putting aside his grievances to steer his team to a vital win over their rivals. Previously branded a hot head, the 23-year-old has visibly grown this season and another strong performance illustrates just how key he is to Villa's promotion push, not just via the winning goal but his all-round contribution, providing a constant threat to the Birmingham defence.
Defensive frailties remain for Villa
Albeit coming away with the three points on the day, there was clear evidence that Villa still need to get some reinforcements in at centre-back. But for a poor miss by Craig Gardener, Birmingham would've been gifted a late equaliser, with time and space to pick out the midfielder in acres of space within the danger done. Likewise, on another day Hause would've been penalised for an elbow to Che Adams inside the area. A poor performance all round for the defender, who was sluggish in possession and often caught out, it serves as a warning shot across the bow and a reminder of the frailties that remain within the side.