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

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?