Birmingham 0-1 Aston Villa: Jack Grealish grabs derby winner after fan attack
Fan arrested after running onto pitch and punching Grealish in first half
By Frederick Clayton
Last Updated: 11/03/19 2:25pm
Jack Grealish scored the winner as Aston Villa beat Birmingham 1-0 in a Second City derby overshadowed by an attack on Grealish by a fan.
In a first half marred by further stoppages and injuries, the best chance fell to Villa's Anwar El Ghazi whose shot was saved after Grealish played him through.
Grealish (67) hit back in the best way possible in the second half, waltzing his way into the box before finding the corner.
Conor Hourihane almost made it two as he hit the crossbar from distance, while Craig Gardner almost equalised twice in the dying minutes of the game, but Grealish's response proved enough as Villa leapfrogged Birmingham in the table to go ninth, four points off the play-off places.
Birmingham: Camp (7), Pedersen (6), Morrison (5), Dean (7), Harding (6), Davis (6), Kieftenbeld (6), Jota (5), Maghoma (7), Adams (7), Jutkiewicz (6)
Subs: Mrabti (6), C Gardner (7), Mahoney (N/A)
Aston Villa: Steer (7), Elmohamady (6), Mings (8), Hause (7), Taylor (6), Whelan (6), Hourihane (6), Grealish (9), Adomah (6), El Ghazi (5), Abraham (6)
Subs: Bjarnason (N/A), McGinn (7), Green (6)
Man of the match: Jack Grealish
Villa emerged to a chorus of boos at St Andrew's and the match began in kind, as Maikel Kieftenbeld was booked for a crunching tackle on Grealish after just five minutes.
But football played second fiddle in the first half when 10 minutes later a fan ran onto the pitch and launched a fierce attack on Grealish, swiping him around the side of the head and knocking him to the ground. Grealish remained calm throughout as the man was escorted from the ground and later arrested by the West Midlands police.
Dean Smith made four changes to his Aston Villa side, with Maghoma recalled alongside Kieftenbald, Jota and Harding.Garry Monk made just one change with Taylor replacing the injured Elphick.
Both sides struggled for momentum as the half went on, but Grealish was once again at the centre of the action as he played El Ghazi through on goal, only for Lee Camp to make a smart save.
Villa started the second half brightly as the cauldron in St Andrew's cooled, and he took the first big chance that came his way by striking home from 23 yards as Blues players allowed the midfielder far too much space.
Hourihane almost gave Villa a second as Grealish teed him up outside the box, but his curling strike smacked the bar giving Birmingham a lifeline heading into the final moments.
And twice the Blues could have equalised through Gardner. The substitute knocked over from just eight yards after good work from Harding, before heading just inches wide in stoppage time.
Villa held on and Grealish had the last laugh as his side move above Birmingham in the league and closer to the play-off spots.
Garry Monk: "Of course I think all of us in football realise this [Grealish attack] cannot happen on a football pitch. We don't condone it to the highest level possible. The idiot who came on must be punished and dealt with.
"That one idiot who came onto the pitch does not reflect what the fans are here.
"These fans are fantastic."
Dean Smith: "He shouldn't be allowed on a football pitch, it shouldn't happen. The security should've been better and hopefully he gets locked up.
"When you've got 15 thousand clapping him on, it isn't right. I'm all for a local rivalry but that's overstepping the mark."
Man of the match
Jack Grealish was in imperious form despite the cowardly attack in the first half. A winner in the Second City derby was the perfect response.
Aston Villa travel to eighth-placed Nottingham Forest in the midweek round of fixtures while Birmingham host struggling Millwall