A Jack Grealish inspired win handed Aston Villa the double over their second city rivals Birmingham City, as the pride of the Midlands won 1-0 at St. Andrews. Although, unsavoury scenes marred the headlines after a Blues supporter assaulted Grealish on the pitch.
Dean Smith had to replace Tommy Elphick after picking up an injury last time out. Neil Taylor replaced him and Kortney Hause moved across the back four to centre half. The rest of the side that beat Derby County 4-0 two weeks ago, retained their places. John McGinn started on the bench.
Before Grealish was assaulted by a fan, Maikel Kieftenbeld did his best to disturb Villa’s talisman within the first minutes of the game. Just as he did months before at Villa Park, despite Garry Monk insisting Jack wouldn’t be targeted. Birmingham’s anchorman received a yellow card for scything down the best player on the pitch.
Though, twenty minutes later, Grealish picked up the ball outside the box and drove towards goal before sliding in Anwar El-Ghazi in what was Villa’s best opportunity of the half. The creativity from Villa’s captain wasn’t however matched by El-Ghazi’s finish who struck towards Lee Camp with little composure.
Birmingham’s danger man Che Adams came closest for the hosts. He struck inches wide from twenty-five years. Jed Steer scrambled across his goal-line as he started his second game in a row since replacing Lovre Kalinic.
Whilst Birmingham dominated the lions share of possession, it was Villa who made the better chances. Tammy Abraham also came close to breaking the first half stalemate.
McGinn makes the difference
Villa introduced Andre Green and McGinn on the hour mark. The two instantly combined on the right side to carve open a fantastic opportunity for the visitors. Of course, Grealish was involved in the move as he picked out Green in the box. The winger couldn’t head into the empty net as Wes Harding did well to get back on the goal-line.
As McGinn become more influential, the Scot picked up the ball on the half way line and switched across to Taylor on the left wing. The full back passed to Grealish who worked space on the edge of the box before setting his sights under little pressure from the Blue’s defence. Villa’s captain took aim and struck low with his left foot, and as the ball squandered underneath Camp, the travelling fans behind the home goal went crazy. The Birmingham born Villa supporter wearing the armband scored the winner of the second city derby.
As Villa looked to kill the game, they kept and moved the ball with pace and direction. Though, a second could’ve came when Conor Hourihane hit the bar on his 100th appearance for the club. After Grealish passed back for the Irishman, Hourihane crashed the woodwork from fifteen yards.
Craig Gardner’s two guilt edge misses towards the end of the game was as good as it got for Birmingham City who haven’t beaten their superior rivals in the league for 14 years.
Aston Villa will face Nottingham Forest in another crunch game for their play-off aspirations on Wednesday night, before entertaining Middlesbrough on Saturday.