Soccer Roundup: Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish Attacked by Fan During Match Express News
A spectator ran onto the field and threw a punch at the Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish’s head during a soccer match at Birmingham City on Sunday.
The episode happened less than 10 minutes into the game in the second-tier Championship in Birmingham, England, when Grealish was in the Birmingham penalty area. The fan ran from behind Grealish and swung his right arm at the midfielder’s face, striking the side of his head.
“I was walking into position and then just felt a whack around the side of the face,” Grealish said. “Obviously there’s rivalry and stuff in football, but I don’t think there’s any place for that.”
The intruder was quickly restrained by a stadium security official as several Aston Villa players rushed in to confront him. He was led away by the police, blowing kisses to the crowd. The West Midlands Police later said he had been arrested.
“We apologize to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club,” Birmingham City said in a statement after the game. “What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this. There are no excuses.”
Grealish produced the ideal response: He scored the goal in the second half that secured a 1-0 victory for Aston Villa. Seconds later, he received a yellow card for jumping into the stands to celebrate with the visitors’ fans.
“I just tried to get on with my job,” Grealish said. “To score the winner was unbelievable; after what happened in the first half, I think it was set up for it.”
The English Football League, which oversees the Championship, said it “condemns the mindless actions” of the man who attacked Grealish.
“It’s a situation no player should ever be faced with,” the Football League said in a statement. “In all circumstances the playing surface is for players, not supporters and those playing in the game must be able to do so safe in the knowledge they will not be subjected to this type of behavior.
“Whilst this incident falls within the remit of the Football Association, we will work with all the relevant parties to address the issue of player and match officials safety on the pitch and ensure the appropriate action is taken.”
Precautionary measures had been taken already in an attempt to reduce the risk of violence at the match, one of the most heated city rivalries in Britain.
“We kick off on Sunday at 12 o’clock for a reason, to keep the people out of the pubs,” Villa Manager Dean Smith said. “Security’s got to be ready for people coming on to the pitch, but then some lunatic goes on trying to make a name for himself.”
Birmingham said it would assist the authorities in their investigations and review stadium safety procedures.
“We deplore the behavior of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life,” the club said. “The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.”
The attack followed a number of recent high-profile episodes of crowd trouble north of the border in Scottish football.
In Friday night’s 1-1 tie between Rangers and Hibernian, the Rangers captain, James Tavernier, found himself face to face with a Hibernian fan who had jumped out of the stands. The previous weekend, a glass bottle was thrown from the same section of the stadium as Scott Sinclair of Celtic prepared to take a corner kick against Hibs.
N.Y.C.F.C. 0, D.C. UNITED 0 New York City F.C. goalkeeper Sean Johnson and his D.C. United counterpart Bill Hamid were stalwarts in a draw at Yankee Stadium.
N.Y.C.F.C. (0-0-2) outshot United (1-0-1) by 21-7, with six shots on goal to the visitors’ three.
Hamid made his 200th start for United and turned in his 56th M.L.S. shutout. Johnson’s shutout was his 54th in 242 regular-season starts.
Johnson had two big saves early, diving right to deflect a shot from Luciano Acosta that was headed to the left corner, and then denying Paul Arrieola’s shot from a severe angle on the right side with a deflection off his right leg.
Hamid kept the first half scoreless when he dived to the left to block a powerful long-distance shot by Alex Ring.
Johnson turned away Acosta’s effort from inside the box in the 83rd, and Hamid made diving blocks of Alexandru Mitirita’s shot from outside the box in the 88th and Ring’s header in the 89th.
ARSENAL 2, MAN U. 0 Arsenal ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten coaching run in the Premier League with a home win over Manchester United.
Granit Xhaka scored with a swerving long-range strike in the first half, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled the lead on a penalty kick in the 69th minute. The win puts Arsenal back into fourth place, two points ahead of United, and handed Solskjaer his first league loss since taking over as United manager in December. He had 10 wins and two draws in his first 12 games.
Arsenal is just one point behind its north London rival Tottenham, with United fifth and Chelsea sixth in an increasingly tight fight for the Champions League spots.