Writing this blog so late after the match has given me the opportunity to preface it with a tribute to Christopher Priest. This young man was tragically killed in a car accident in the hours following the game. I'd like to take this small opportunity I have to pay respects to him and his family, who have asked for a minutes silence at the final home game of the season. The response of the city of Birmingham, Villa and Blues fans alike, has been commendable following this terrible accident.
Any football match comes second to a tragedy like this. RIP Christopher Priest.
Finally we have given Birmingham the thrashing they deserve. The last time they stained Villa Park we were down at their level, fighting to avoid the real threat of relegation. Just over two years later we are light years ahead of them, both on and off the pitch; a statement backed up by the utter dominance of our team in killing the game and the beautiful mosaic our owner has put on the Holte End. Its a great touch and is just emblematic of his total appreciation of the supporters.
I've only been to one second-city derby before was the last one at Villa Park. As soon as I got into the ground last Sunday I noticed a distinctly different atmosphere: less intense, less hate-filled and far more confident. If you compare the two Villa teams that lined up in these games, and the positions they hold in the table, its not hard to see why. The start of the game, though, was typically tight, with potshots at both ends, most notably from Petrov and Murphy.
Then after around ten minutes a Gareth Barry inspired Villa cranked up the tempo and blew the Blues away for the next hour. It was an absolute joy to watch. There has been talk recently of our captain leaving to satisfy his ambitions of playing in the Champions League and winning trophies. On the evidence of Sunday he may well achieve that at Villa, but if he doesn't he deserves it somewhere else. His industrious, skilled and comitted display provided a brilliant example which the rest of the team followed. A goal, which he was close to coming to twice, would have made his a peerless game.
After around ten minutes of this spell we took a deserved lead through a thrilling Ashley Young finish as he expertly dispatched a bouncing ball into the corner of the net at the Holte End (thank you Mr Ridgewell (pt1) for letting us attack the Holte first). This released the tension round the ground as delirious celebrations in a mass of claret and blue swarmed over it. Barry almost added a sumptuous second, beating two men and forcing a top save from Taylor, before Carew got on the scoresheet five minutes before half time.
The big man had one of those games where the ball always stuck too him and defenders always bounced off. His goal, typically from a Young free-kick, would have ended the game against another team, we knew these derbies too well to relax. Carew is a rare player in many different ways. His physique means he can be unplayable on occasion against any defence. He is also a born crowd pleaser; his celebration for the first goal, picking a fist-clenching ball-boy up and roaring with him before high-fiving as many fans as possible, typifies the great relationship he has with us. In the second half he was rampant; smashing through challenges, bossing an embarrassed Jerome, bullying Ridgewell constantly (once right in front of their furious supporters, well those who bothered staying) and scoring a deserved second goal. Three more games like this from the big man and we will see Uefa Cup football at Villa Park next season.
The third was crucial as it definitely ended the game, we have had nightmares before against them but not from that position, though the supporter next to me couldn't celebrate until one minute of injury time was announced. The fourth came soon after and provided another memorable Ashley Young moment. Collecting the ball from Gabby he dummied past two players before surging into the box and putting in the rebound whilst a static defence could only watch. Four nil against Blues was dreamland, surely? Well despite a well-worked Forsell consolation there was no need for my neighbours' nerves: Villa were utterly dominant here all over the pitch. We also just wanted it more, and the lack of fight from Birmingham's team should be a cause for real concern.
The fifth goal was the one we all wanted from Agbonlahor (thank you Mr Ridgewell again) to perfectly round off the game. As if this wasn't enough Mellberg was cleverly substituted by O'Neill, giving him a memorable reception as he left the field which he made the most of, pumping his arms and shouting to all corners of the ground. Olof has been a great servant of this club and often deserved better than we've given him. He goes to Juve with all our best wishes.
Referees have been slated on here a few times but Mark Clattenburg on Sunday gave an exemplary performance. A lot was made on MOTD about his shove on Nafti for what can only be described as twattish behaviour. I didn't see this at the time and don't think there was anything wrong with it. In a normally tempestuous game that has seen its fair share of cards in previous fixtures there were no bookings until well into the second half and the game flowed throughout. Clattenburg deserves a lot of credit for the way he controlled this game, particularly in comparison to the way others have failed to.
So the ordeal of derby-day is over, possibly until next season and possibly longer. Next Sunday represents a far bigger game, with Uefa Cup football on the line. Hopefully it will end in a convincing result as last Sunday did, only this time hopefully we'll be able to celebrate properly.