First, I’ll hold my hands up.
Never, in a million years, did I think that Gabby would be the man to [once again] put the Blues in their place.
In a season that has seen Agbonlahor attempt to rehabilitate himself under Bruce & a long layoff following a bad hamstring injury; no-one expected to see him make another telling mark in the history books.
In reality, Gabby delivered the critical moment.
The right man, right place. Gabby took his chance.
It’s certainly cliched, but it couldn’t have been scripted any better.
In certain quarters, the result is all that matters.
To some degree I get that. A derby game polarises things if only for a few hours. The winners are idolised, whilst the losers are consigned to an eternity of ridicule. Enklemann, Ridgewell, Mellberg, Savage, Dublin are names which the second city derby has left its mark upon, to name but a few.
Bragging rights are definitely important too.
However, what was on display served as a reminder of both clubs struggles.
It wasn’t easy on the eye, with neither side seemingly capable of taking the initiative or injecting some flair into the tie.
It was the kind of game that any neutral would struggle to endure, but for anyone with a Villa/Blues affiliation it was enthralling. If only for the tension & unease growing as the minutes ticked by.
Villa were lethargic and devoid of any urgency. Rarely did we come to life.
Blue, however, looked weak. They looked like a team vulnerable at the back & nervous about an inevitable goal. Redknapp’s side also carried little of the kind of fight or attacking threat that their survival may yet depend upon.
In short, it wasn’t a classic, but there were still moments that will live long in the memory.
See each and every Villa players ratings from the game:
Highs: Jedinak (Man of The Match) & Baker
Lows: Grealish & Adomah.
See each individual Villa mans rating here.
Villa were slow out of the blocks & better teams may well have taken advantage.
The midfield in particular just didn’t tick at all.
Adomah and Grealish were almost anonymous, whilst Lansbury and Bacuna worked hard to little effect. The tactics, especially in our efforts to see a goalscoring return from Scott Hogan, remain a puzzle.
Whilst the game was limited in terms of goalmouth action, Villa did get a let-off with Adam’s skying a golden chance into The Holte End. The Blues man was just yards from goal, virtually unopposed.
A comedy miss, but a lucky escape too.
Villa only really found purpose with Gabby’s introduction. A remarkable turn of events.
His presence, drive and nuisance rattled the visitors. There can be little argument there. Whatever you think of the man, and opinions are often strong, he changed the narrative from the second he entered the field.
Agbonlahor chased the balls that none had bothered with previously to great effect, almost breaking through the centre after blocking a clearance.
Gabby was rewarded for his strikers instinct as Blues failed to clear a Lansbury corner.
As head tennis and scrambling ensued, Agbonlahor hooked home the winner as the ball fell at his feet.
Cue wild celebrations & one of the more bizarre pitch invasions you’ll see.
Instead of building on this, Villa bizarrely went deep. Another emerging trait of the newly defined Bruce era.
Instead of going for the kill, we do invite problems. Again, better sides can capitalise upon this. Blues used the final minutes to lump the ball towards the box, but fortunately to little effect.
Birmingham’s season now teeters precariously and it is easy to see why.
Whilst it’s easy to label this a “Villa” view – which it is – Blues were easily one of the poorest sides at Villa Park this season. We were barely better on the day, but few sides have been so bereft of any threat. And as mentioned above, we often invite it at times. It was certainly one of the poorest Birmingham sides to have turned up in living memory.
One unsavoury moment did though include Paul Robinson appearing to kick and punch James Chester after the Villa goal. It is what it is; a cowardly, petulant act.
Whilst it wasn’t a classic, the game can be filed as yet another victory over the Blue half. It’s something which never ceases to be satisfying.
Jack Grealish was 9 the last time they beat us – and just consider how poor we’ve been over many years within that period.
Up next is an away trip to Blackburn, in which Villa can potentially have a huge say in how Harry Redknapp’s brief at City will pan out.