In the end, the eagerly awaited Second City derby was a controlled execution by an Aston Villa team that stepped up its performance level from the previous week’s home game against Burton.
The key to Villa taking care of business was a dominating midfield display, orchestrated by Jack Grealish, and capped off by two sublime strikes by Albert Adomah and Conor Hourihane.
Despite Birmingham City’s Chelsea loanee Jérémie Boga looked lively at times, the Blues ultimately offered very little despite their decent recent form going into the game.
Villa’s win saw them enter the automatic promotion spots, for the first time since they were relegated to the Championship.
Villa Player Ratings vs Birmingham City
Sam Johnstone – 6
Didn’t really have anything too drastic to attend to, although he closed the angle down well when Sam Gallagher was through on goal and hit the post. One thing that was noticeable though, was Johnstone’s distribution and kicking wasn’t completely convincing. It was especially nervy in the first half. Surely it’s part of his game that he’s working on.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
Was up against a tricky customer in Jérémie Boga, but did an okay damage limitation job. Did well when joining the attack – on and off the ball.
John Terry – 7
Provided the man hugs for his teammates before kick-off, that set the tone for a committed team performance. Overall he coped with the threat of Sam Gallagher well, but once got himself in a bit of pickle, allowing Gallagher a clean run on goal, but luckily Villa survived the rare Blues attack.
James Chester – 7.5
Chester probably pipped Terry as the main man of the Villa defence, making several key clearances and was in control of most things that came his way. He even managed to out jump Gallagher in one instance despite giving away six inches.
Alan Hutton – 7
Had an easier game than the fixture at St Andrew’s earlier in the season, with the Blues not starting Jota playing a part in that. A solid day at the office for the Scottish Cafu.
Mile Jedinak – 8
MOMS had suggested in the Blues preview podcast episode that Jedinak would get the vote above Bjarnason simply to counter the aerial threat that the six-foot-four Blues striker Gallagher posed. Throughout the game he shut Birmingham down, when they came forward, and made sure that it was the Villa midfield bossing the game.
Certainly it was Jedinak’s best showing of what has been a stop-start season for him.
Robert Snodgrass – 7.5
Certainly the hustle and bustle side of his game is wearing off on his teammates, from the example of the derby clash. In many way Snodgrass is the perfect player to have in a derby game with both the work ethic and end product to always be a threat.
Conor Hourihane – 7
What. A. Goal. To seal the deal. Hourihane had drifted out of the game at times and was maybe lucky not to have been subbed before lashing in his thunderbolt effort to make it 2-0. His run off the ball also opened up space for Adomah to run into for the first goal.
When he’s making such decisive contributions, he’s a must on the teamsheet, especially since he’s Villa’s second highest scorer on eight goals.
Again – What. A. Goal.
Jack Grealish – 8.5 MOTM
This season’s Jack Grealish is a much improved model and he’s starting to show consistency. With the effort and enthusiasm that now flows through his game, against Burton, he covered the pitch like an all-action central midfielder. He certainly put in a shift – tackling back, bringing the ball out, probing the opposition defence and igniting the crowd with flashes of brilliance, like the shot that hit bounced off the bar and his volleyed goal.
With Villa at times playing in a functional manner, Grealish’s endeavour on the pitch was a god send for supporters.
— MY OLD MAN SAID (@oldmansaid) February 12, 2018
Albert Adomah – 7.5
One thing is for sure, Villa’s top scorer this season is one very composed finisher. Most fans thought he would have gone for the far post, once Grealish had put him through with a smart pass, but Adomah cooly despatched Villa’s first in-off-the-near-post.
The move mirrored an earlier effort that went wide, so Adomah obviously got his eye in before putting away his opener.
His 13th league goal for the season equaled the most Gabby Agbonlahor has scored in the league in a season. Just saying.
Scott Hogan – 7
Almost twice as mainly touches as he’s had in recent matches was symbolic of a commitment to the cause, that exceeded what we’ve already witnessed from the ex-Brentford striker, even though he didn’t find the net this time round.
The added effort he put in against the Blues, was very encouraging and suggests he more than just a fox in the box.
Off the Bench
Lewis Grabban (79) – N/A
A good game to make your Villa debut, although he didn’t really have time to impress after the game was won within a couple of minutes of him coming on.
Birkir Bjarnason (84) – N/A
Unlucky not to start after his recent run of decent performances, but it was good to see he at least got some taste of the derby win.
Glenn Whelan (89) – N/A
Didn’t really have chance to do anything apart from break up play once
Team Performance – 8
Villa needed to lift themselves up from an unconvincing team performance against Burton and they did. They took the game to the Blues and it was the kind of dictating performance they need more of at Villa Park to see them cement an automatic promotion spot. Encouraging stuff.