Villa’s Grealish punched by Birmingham fan
Grealish was in the Birmingham penalty area in the 10th minute when a man ran on to the field and threw a punch from behind at the Villa captain.
The blow caught Grealish on the side of the head and sent him sprawling to the turf.
The intruder was quickly restrained by a steward as Villa players including Tammy Abraham and Glenn Whelan rushed to Grealish’s defence.
After the fan had been shoved over, he was eventually led away by police, defiantly blowing kisses to the crowd.
A visibly furious Grealish was helped to his feet and was able to continue playing once order was restored at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s stadium.
“Following the incident on the pitch involving an attack on an Aston Villa player; a man has been arrested and en route to a custody block,” West Midlands Police tweeted.
Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville called for Birmingham to be docked points over the attack.
“The club are going have to take a huge punishment for this to act as a deterrent in the future. A Points deduction or Empty stadium for 10 games!” Neville tweeted.
There is a long history of animosity between Birmingham and Villa supporters, with outbreaks of serious violence in the streets marring many of the ‘second city’ derby encounters.
There was fighting between rival gangs before Sunday’s match, with police having to hold back fans while at least one man was seen being treated by paramedics after suffering a head wound.
Fanning the flames further, Grealish is a boyhood Villa fan and once turned down a chance to join Birmingham on loan when he was a youngster, reportedly saying: “I’m not going there”.
In 2002, a Birmingham fan was jailed for four months after running onto the pitch at St Andrew’s to taunt then Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman, who had just conceded a bizarre own goal when he let a backpass roll under his foot into the net.
The supporter made an obscene gesture in Enckelman’s face and slapped his cheek.
Adding to the tense nature of Sunday’s derby, both teams are fighting to earn a place in the Championship play-offs, with Birmingham starting the day two points above Villa.
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