Jack Grealish scored the winner in a fiery Second City derby between Birmingham and Aston Villa, despite the 23-year old being attacked on the pitch by a fan in the first half.
The game had started off as a typically edgy derby game, with challenges flying in as both sides looked to gain an edge over each other in the race for the Championship play-offs.
Grealish, who was making just his second appearance following a 13-game injury lay-off, was expectedly in the thick of the action, as Villa’s captain constantly looked like their main attacking threat.
It was in the first half when the game’s massive talking point occurred involving Grealish, and the ramifications of such will likely be felt by Birmingham City for quite some time to come.
After Grealish’s ball across the Birmingham box went out for a corner kick, a fan in the home end evaded the stewards and ran on to the field attacking the Villa man from behind, throwing an arm across his face in a cowardly attack.
Stewards and players alike swarmed the fan, but Grealish, the subject of the incident, showed tremendous restraint as he dusted himself down and got on with the game. The sign of a true captain.
The fan was escorted off the pitch as the game continued, but the sour taste left around St Andrew’s following the incident was palpable.
Grealish though was left unaffected by the incident as the talismanic attacking midfielder served up some poetic justice midway through the second half, striking the killer blow to give Villa the lead, and eventually all three points.
The 23-year old celebrated wildly in front of the away fans and was given a yellow card for his troubles, something that will be very unlikely to concern him as the away side came away with the 1-0 win.
The incident will be discussed and dissected in the coming days by many in the footballing world and begs the question, should more be done to protect the safety of players on the field?
Had the fan in question been carrying a knife or any other concealed weapon or had he even caught Grealish cleanly, there’s no telling how dire the consequences could have been.
On the field Villa edge ever closer to sneaking into the playoff picture and with Grealish in form, it would be foolish to bet against them.