Aston Villa FC had Dion Dublin and Joey Gudjonsson sent off as they lost a fiercely-contested Midlands derby 2-0 against Birmingham City FC at Villa Park in this evening's only English Premiership fixture.
Lazaridis and Horsfield goals
Villa were desperate for revenge after losing 3-0 to their local rivals at St Andrews in September but goals from Stan Lazaridis and substitute Geoff Horsfield saw Birmingham complete a league double over their great rivals for the first time in 25 years.
Taylor makes changes
Villa manager Graham Taylor made four changes to the side that were beaten 3-0 against Charlton Athletic FC nine days' ago. Alpay Özalan, Mark Kinsella, Ulises de la Cruz and Peter Crouch were all dropped while into the side came Jlloyd Samuel, Lee Hendrie, Stefan Moore and Dublin, who was available again after serving a one-match suspension.
Birmingham manager Steve Bruce fielded an unchanged side from the one that beat Liverpool FC 2-1 in the club's last league fixture. The first half saw plenty of passion but few clearcut chances. The best opportunity fell to Birmingham forward Clinton Morrison after 20 minutes when he got a head to Damien Johnson's cross only to miss the target from four metres out.
Villa responded with a sweeping attack that ended with Darius Vassell drilling the ball past the far post when well placed. As the half continued Villa trio Lee Hendrie, Gudjonsson and Alan Wright all tried their luck from distance, but all missed the target with ambitious efforts.
Five minutes before half-time Birmingham's French international Christophe Dugarry proved more accurate than his Villa counterparts as he lashed a vicious 20-metre strike towards goal which keeper Peter Enckelman did well to tip over the crossbar.
Dublin off, Birmingham ahead
The game exploded into acrimony six minutes after the break when Dublin was sent off for butting Birmingham midfield player Robbie Savage. Birmingham then edged ahead in the 74th minute when Jeff Kenna's swerving cross flew, via a touch from substitute Horsfield, into the path of Lazaridis whose diving header beat Enckelman.
Three minutes later Birmingham doubled their lead when Samuel's weak back-header fell into the path of forward Horsfield who beat Enckelman to the ball and ran it into an empty net. Villa's misery was made complete with nine minutes remaining when Gudjonsson was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Matthew Upson.
Seven points clear
Birmingham ended the game with Horsfield in goal after keeper Nico Vaesen was carried off with a potentially serious injury. However, the result lifts Bruce's 16th-placed side on to 32 points, six clear of the relegation zone and within three of 14th-placed Villa.
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