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- Jack Grealish overcame a punch to the head by a fan and scored the winning goal in style in one of English soccer’s most bitter rivalries.
- A spectator invaded the pitch, hit the Aston Villa midfielder in the back of the head, then blew kisses at the crowd while he was escorted away by security during Sunday’s match at Birmingham City.
- The spectator was arrested, charged with encroachment on to the pitch and assault, and will appear in court on Monday.
- Aston Villa called the incident “disgraceful” and “cowardly” in an official statement, while Birmingham City apologized to Villa and to Grealish.
- You can watch the incident, and Grealish’s winning goal, below.
- Read all of Business Insider’s coverage for the European Soccer season right here.
Jack Grealish got punched in the head by a fan, scored the winning goal in one of England’s most bitter rivalries, then took to Twitter to say “the cream always rises” hours later.
Grealish’s goal was the only one scored in Sunday’s Championship match, the fiery “Second City” derby between the two biggest soccer clubs in Birmingham – Aston Villa and Birmingham City.
Before kick-off, both teams had a small chance of finishing within one of the Championship’s coveted playoff places, which could win them promotion into England’s top division, the cash-rich and world-renowned Premier League.
The stakes were high in a match traditionally not shy of tension, when just eight minutes into the game a fan invaded the pitch, swung his arm at Villa’s 23-year-old midfielder Grealish and punched him to the floor.
As the fan was ushered away by matchday security, he turned to the crowd and blew kisses at them, according to the BBC.
Watch the incident right here:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 10, 2019
Grealish, seemingly unfazed, went on to score the game’s only goal – a crucial winner – and finished the match as the best player according to Whoscored.com data.
Grealish scored his goal in the 67th minute. He received the ball on the edge of the box, dribbled into the penalty area and successfully found space to tease a shot toward goal, firing the ball low into the bottom right-hand corner. 1-0.
Watch it here:
You could not write it! ????
After being punched by a fan in the first half, Jack Grealish opens the scoring for Aston Villa against Birmingham! ???? pic.twitter.com/EiBedIL2U1
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) March 10, 2019
With two tackles, three chances provided, and two shots that yielded one goal, Grealish was worth of his 8/10 ranking.
He reacted to the win on Twitter, saying: “The cream always rises.”
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish1) March 10, 2019
Regardless, the fan incident marred the game, somewhat overshadowing Grealish’s outstanding performance.
A 27-year-old man was arrested and charged with encroachment on to the pitch and assault, West Midlands police said, according to the BBC. He will appear in court on Monday.
Villa called the incident “disgraceful” and “cowardly” in a statement published on the club’s official website. “We trust the perpetrator will feel the full force of the law and the authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding today’s deplorable incident.”
Villa added that “local rivalries are part of the fabric” of English soccer, but said a “player’s personal safety placed under such jeopardy is a serious cause for concern for the entire football community.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and to Birmingham in its own statement. It said the club “deplores” the behavior and the individual will be banned from the club “for life,” adding: “There are no excuses.”
Prominent soccer pundits and former players like Alan Shearer and Gary Neville have called for Birmingham to get slapped with a points ban, which would push them lower down the Championship league table.
Shearer told the BBC the club “should have the strongest possible punishment.” He elaborated: “[This] means points deduction, and playing behind closed doors, because if they don’t stamp this out now, someone’s going to get hurt.”
Neville tweeted: “The club are going have to take a huge punishment for this to act as a deterrent in the future. A points deduction or empty stadium for 10 games.”
The club are going have to take a huge punishment for this to act as a deterrent in the future . A Points deduction or Empty stadium for 10 games ! https://t.co/wQtcAUuvnx
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) March 10, 2019
The English Football Association (FA), the governing body for soccer in England, will reportedly begin its own investigation when it receives a referee’s report from the match official Tim Robinson, according to The Times.
It will then decide on an appropriate response and/or punishment.