Thursday 22 March 2018

Grealish shines as Villa enjoy Rudy Tuesday

Aston Villa 1 Birmingham City 0

Jack Grealish stretches for the ball in the air during the Capital One Cup clash at Villa Park
Jack Grealish stretches for the ball in the air during the Capital One Cup clash at Villa Park
Rudy Gestede celebrates scoring Aston Villa's goal
Birmingham City's Nicolai Brock-Madsen (left) and Villa's Ciaran Clark battle for an aerial ball
Aston Villa's Brad Guzan clashes with Birmingham's Jon Miquel Toral in the fiery 'second city derby'
Birmingham City's Demarai Gray sits dejected at the final whistle

Jason Burt

Bragging rights belong to Aston Villa. Not there was much to brag about in a Second City derby that remained, largely, second-rate as Birmingham City were subdued. Villa go into the fourth round of the League Cup.

Never mind the quality, feel the relief and there was a huge wave of it for Villa, their supporters and for manager Tim Sherwood, who had begun to cut a haggard figure on the touchline. He will desperately hope this result can provide some impetus to revive his team's unconvincing season.

There was precious little to provide him with encouragement at times but Villa fans will be delighted that local boy Jack Grealish made the clear difference as a half-time substitute. The 20-year-old lifted his team. In fact he carried them.

Sherwood badly needed a result and made minimal changes to his line-up. A big Premier League match against Liverpool looms but that could wait for one night. The stakes were high.

Among those retained was Joleon Lescott, a lifelong Villa supporter; it would have been a difficult for Sherwood to omit him for this one. The next opportunity fell to the central defender, from a corner, but he screwed his header back across goal.

Maybe it was the occasion or maybe that is a charitable statement - these were two teams of modest quality - because the game then developed into a contest of haste and hump, with the ball sent forward as quickly as possible, particularly by Villa.

Sherwood had seen enough. He replaced Lescott and Gabriel Agbonlahor, both of whom had struggled, with Jordan Ayew and Grealish to, hopefully, add some guile. Any guile in fact, and certainly there was a slight improvement in Villa's passing, with Grealish improving its accuracy.

The breakthrough came from another cross, this time with Grealish finding Jordan Amavi, whose cross on the run was met by Gestede, who powered a fine header into the net. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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