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Jack has last laugh - Grealish nets winner after fan attack

Birmingham 0 Aston Villa 1

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Grealish celebrates at full-time after scoring the winning goal. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Grealish celebrates at full-time after scoring the winning goal. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

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Grealish celebrates at full-time after scoring the winning goal. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish celebrated the 'best day of his life' after he recovered from being punched by a pitch invader to score the derby winner at Birmingham.

Grealish, 23, was hit on the side of the head by a spectator who ran on to the field less than 10 minutes into the match before throwing a punch from behind the midfielder as he stood in the Birmingham penalty area.

The intruder, who Blues later confirmed would be banned for life from St Andrew's, was quickly restrained by stewards as several other Villa players rushed in to confront him. He was led away by police, blowing kisses to the crowd as he left.

West Midlands police said a man was arrested following the incident.

Grealish, thankfully, appeared unhurt and was comforted by team-mates and opponents.

He went on to net the only goal with a low, angled shot in the second half, leaping jubilantly in to the Villa fans to celebrate and earning himself a yellow card.

Grealish said: "Best day of my life. To come here, captain Aston Villa and score the winner is what dreams are made of, especially for me as a Villa fan." He added about the fan attack: "I was just unaware at the time, I was walking into position and then just felt a whack around the side of the face.

"Obviously there's rivalry and stuff in football, but I don't think there's any place for that really.

"I just tried to get on with my job. To score the winner was unbelievable. After what happened in the first half I think it was set up for it."

Team-mate Conor Hourihane branded the attack "absolutely disgusting," adding: "Full credit to Grealish, he showed his class, got the winner and had the last laugh and it's a fantastic three points for us."

It was only Grealish's second game back from a long-term injury - he marked his return last week by scoring a stunning volley against Derby, while he also scored in November's 4-2 win over Blues at Villa Park.

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Jack Grealish is struck by a pitch invader early in the first-half. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Jack Grealish is struck by a pitch invader early in the first-half. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Action Images via Reuters

Jack Grealish is struck by a pitch invader early in the first-half. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Villa said they were "appalled" by the "disgraceful attack" and called on the culprit to feel "the full force of the law". Birmingham apologised to Grealish and their rivals and said they would undertake a review of their safety procedures.

The attack on Grealish follows recent incidents of crowd trouble in Scottish football.

In Friday night's 1-1 draw between Rangers and Hibernian at Easter Road, Gers captain James Tavernier found himself face to face with a fan who had jumped out of the home support.

That incident came six days after a glass bottle was thrown from the same section of Easter Road at Celtic's Scott Sinclair.


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