Jack Grealish got punched, then delivered a punch in the gut to Birmingham City.
The Aston Villa attacker was attacked himself early in Sunday’s English second-division match after a fan ran onto the pitch and swung from behind:
Grealish is known for his dribbling ability and aptitude at leaving opponents in the dust. Or as former Villa academy director Bryan Jones poses it, “He has this ability to just ghost past people and you sit back and think ‘How the bloody hell did he get round there?’” Moreover, the 23-year-old does it with an air of cockiness that infuses himself and his side with energy.
Which, of courses, is absolutely zero justification for a “fan” to run onto the pitch and punch him. But that’s what happened, and what happened next is the best form of revenge.
Grealish took possession near the top corner of the box in the 67th minute, and with Birmingham all but inviting him to shoot, he obliged. Watch the moment of glory starting at the 20-second mark:
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 10, 2019
Known as the Second City derby, this fixture is a heated rivalry between two clubs separated by less than four miles in Birmingham, and those tensions clearly spilled over on Sunday.
For his part, Grealish said the incident barely registered in real time.
“I was just unaware at the time,” he said. “I was walking into position and I just felt a whack around the side of the face. Obviously there’s rivalry in football but I don’t think there’s any place for that really.”
Birmingham City issued a formal apology for the fan’s behavior and promised to ban him from St. Andrew’s Stadium for life.
“What happened has no place in football or society” the statement read. “Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this – there are no excuses.”
That makes four goals now this season for Grealish, including two in his last two games. With the 1-0 win, Aston Villa is four points off the sixth spot in the EFL Championship table, which earns the fourth and final berth in a playoff to secure promotion to the Premier League at season’s end.
Thats what Grealish and Villa are swinging for.
Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.
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