McLeish: pitch invasion recalls 'dark ages'

Birmingham City 2 Aston Villa 1

The weather was more redolent of the Arctic Circle than the Bull Ring, but Birmingham's followers basked in the warm glow of an overdue victory over neighbouring Aston Villa in last night's Carling Cup derby. Unfortunately for England's 2018 World Cup bid, the match was followed by a pitch invasion by 3,000 home fans and a barrage of ripped-out seats and crimson flares hurled between themselves and sections of the 4,000-strong Villa contingent.

Alex McLeish, who had hoped to be savouring Nikola Zigic's 84th-minute winner and looking forward to a two-leg semi-final against West Ham, instead found himself condemning behaviour he described as reminiscent of "the dark ages". The Scot said: "It doesn't look good when you see fans running on like that. The carry-on on the pitch, and the interaction between the stand and pitch, took us back to the dark ages." Villa's assistant manager, Gary McAllister, said both sets of players knew "the world would be watching" and had conducted themselves well.

An FA spokesman, mindful of the damage that television images of hundreds of policemen forming a barrier to prevent fighting would do to the England campaign, said the ruling body "wholly condemned the actions of any individuals involved in the scenes of disorder". Stressing the importance of Birmingham issuing banning orders against anyone proved to be involved, he went on to claim that "the whole of English football has worked hard to eradicate trouble at games".

The shame was compounded by the fact that the match was a thrilling advertisement for West Midlands football. Sebastian Larsson's early penalty had fired Birmingham's hopes of only their second cup win in 11 attempts against their neighbours.

Villa, last season's beaten finalists, responded before the break through Gabriel Agbonlahor and looked the more likely winners before substitute Craig Gardner set up Cameron Jerome for a low cross which the 6ft 8in Zigic converted.

Birmingham will now meet the club run by their former owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, for a place in a Wembley final against Arsenal or Ipswich. "We now have a great semi-final in prospect against West Ham," said McLeish. "I didn't care who we drew. Arsenal will be favourites to win it but every team has to believe."

McLeish praised his match-winner, yet admitted Zigic might not have been on the pitch to seal his place in Birmingham's history. "He's 29 and an experienced player, a Serb and so a proud man who wants to make an impression. But [English football] has been a culture shock for him, and I was going to take him off before he scored." McAllister said Villa felt "hard done-by and disappointed", adding: "We were the ones pressing for a winner."

Villa's youthful side were behind after 12 minutes, though it was arguably their most experienced performers who were at fault. James Collins ensured the pressure stayed on their defence with a weak header, and after Jerome had fed the ball to Lee Bowyer, Richard Dunne compounded the error by bringing him down. Larsson's spot-kick gave Birmingham the start they wanted.

Villa drew level following a classic counter-attacking thrust. Ashley Young supplied Jonathan Hogg and the 21-year-old in turn found Agbonlahor. A sharp turn and a right-footed, angled finish ensured that the only Birmingham-born player in either starting line-up scored for the third derby in succession at St Andrew's.

Jerome promptly had the chance to restore Birmingham's advantage. However, Friedel dashed out to narrow the angle, forcing Jerome to hurry a shot that flashed wide. Villa, though, began to play the more composed football, Barry Bannan coming inside from a wide-right role to showcase the quick feet that have impressed Houllier.

As if an excellent contest needed any additional spice, an ankle injury to Bowyer gave McLeish the opportunity to introduce Gardner, the boyhood "Bluenose" for whom Birmingham paid Villa £3m. Gardner, almost inevitably, played a part in securing his club's first win over Villa since 2005, but it is his fellow supporters who will be in the spotlight, at home and in Zurich, as England await their moment of decision.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson (Murphy, 88), Ferguson, Bowyer (Gardner, 65), Fahey; Zigic (Derbyshire, 90), Jerome. Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Michel, Beausejour, Jiranek.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock (Delfouneso, 90); Bannan (Ireland, 72), Hogg (Pires, 90), Clark, Downing; A Young, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used Guzan (gk), Carew, Cuellar, Lichaj.

Referee C Foy (Merseyside).

Semi-final draw

Ipswich Town v Arsenal

West Ham United v Birmingham City

First leg to be played week of 10 January; second leg week of 24 January

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor