It was a hostile environment for Birmingham City, Garry Monk and the 2,100 travelling away supporters who had made their way across the city to see Villa Park host the 127th Second-City Derby. In many Birmingham supporters’ eyes, this was the most ready their team had been to face Villa in a long time. Surely, the away support would help the Blues ‘Keep Right On’ and grab their first victory at Villa Park in 14 years.
After a tense first few minutes, the coming together of Maikel Kieftenbeld and Jack Grealish left fans in no doubt about the theatrical display they were set to witness from the Villa man. In the minutes that followed, Blues held their nerve and slowly began to control the game.
Blues finally got their reward in the 28th minute through a Lukas Jutkiewicz goal. A ball at the back post was slotted into the bottom right corner by the main man after poor defending from Villa left him unmarked – Blues’ first goal at Villa Park since April 2008. In the minutes that followed, Villa looked unsettled, and Blues could have doubled their lead when in-form striker, Che Adams, found himself on the end of a superb cross from Craig Gardner, only to hit the post. This was set to be a game-changing moment.
The Villa crowd’s angry response worked – their players responded. A cross from the right fell to the feet of striker Jonathan Kodjia who calmly found the net from 6 yards out. Things got a whole lot worse for Blues when just 2 minutes later, Villa grabbed another. A cross from Albert Adomah found life-long Villa fan, Jack Grelish, who scored at the far post. The game had been turned on its head. The atmosphere inside Villa Park had transformed, and Blues fans couldn’t help but fear that worse was yet to come. The dream had turned into a nightmare for Blues in just 15 minutes.
The start of the second half didn’t do much to erase this fear when just 5 minutes after the re-start, Michael Morrison was judged to have fouled Tammy Abraham in the penalty area: Abraham converted from the spot. Following what looked to have been a harsh decision, the Blues supporters feared that there was no way back for their team.
Despite the 3-1 score line, the Blues players didn’t drop their heads. They continued to press, and Kristian Pedersen gave City hope following a superb piece of play from Che Adams. Adams crossed the ball to the back post for the Dane to volley in. It was game on.
Blues continued to press looking for the equaliser, until in the 76th minute, all hopes were dashed when some poor defending from Blues allowed Alan Hutton to run through the entire midfield and defence to slot home Villa’s fourth. There was no way back for Blues now. It was game over, and bragging rights were awarded to the Villa fans until the two teams meet again in March 2019.
After the game, Garry Monk said that he will need to go back to “basics” with the players to ensure that they get all 3 points in their away fixture against Millwall on Wednesday night.
For many Blues fans, facing Villa fans at work on Monday may be difficult, but the pattern of play they have witnessed from their team during recent fixtures may prove to be a more lingering concern.