This match spent 59 minutes being a boring slog. Aston Villa had almost nothing to play for, so they weren’t doing much. Birmingham City, on the other hand, are playing to avoid relegation. They’re quite bad, though, so even trying hard didn’t result in much. The first half saw one good chance for each team, and each team botched their chance.
But then, in the 59th minute, a man appeared from the wilderness. A man who hadn’t scored in 442 days but who, somehow, always seems to find his footing in the Second City Derby. It was Gabby Agbonlahor time. The crowd sang his name, the Holte End roared their approval, and the prodigal son returned to the Villa Park pitch to play Blues for what may be one last time.
And oh god did he make it worth it. A mere three minutes after he came on, Gabby got into a challenge and got himself a yellow card. He then bantered with Blues fans and got everyone yelling and screaming. It was what a derby was supposed to be.
Then, in the 68th minute, this happened:
It’s as if the Narrative Gods saw what was happening and decided that today would be the day. Gabby Agbonlahor, long-forgotten man. A player who makes far more money than he is worth. That Gabby. He came back to the club and sent a thunderbolt to the back of the net that nearly made Villa Park explode with noise. Jack Grealish danced on the sideline. A man ripped off his shirt and went streaking onto the pitch. It was pandemonium in the best way possible. It was a 1-0 lead, and a lead that would hold.
From there, Blues tried some stuff, and Villa really didn’t, but it didn’t matter. When the whistle blew, Gabby Agbonlahor had slain Birmingham City by his damn self. With the win, Villa move up to 12th and keep the hopes of a top-ten finish alive. With the loss, Birmingham City remain just two points above the drop.
It seems fitting that, on St. George’s day, a great English hero would emerge to put the sword into the belly of one of the great evils in England. A hero who was maligned, but who only needed to remind his people why they loved him, gathered his bow of gold, arrows of desire, spear, and chariot of fire, and drove the darkness out of Villa Park one last time.