Villa give Birmingham the blues

Ashley Young was the inspiration for Aston Villa as they defeated city rivals Birmingham 5-1 at Villa Park on Sunday, leaving the visitors in dire relegation trouble.

Young provided a scintillating performance for the watching England manager Fabio Capello to contemplate as the striker made sure Blues boss Alex McLeish's first taste of the second city derby was a bitter defeat he will want to forget in a hurry.

Young scored twice and also played a part in two other goals for towering Norway striker John Carew before Gabriel Agbonhalor added a fifth just 12 minutes from time.

Finland striker Mikael Forssell scored in the 67th minute for Birmingham but it was no consolation as the Blues were sent spinning to their fourth successive defeat in this fixture and closer to relegation from the English Premier League at the home of their greatest rivals.

McLeish will not have suffered too many more embarrassing days as his side stayed third from bottom in the table and one point from safety.

Just two points from their last 10 games away from St Andrews indicates just why the Blues are in such dire straights at the wrong end of the table.

Villa have scored 14 goals in their last three victories and will travel to Goodison Park next Sunday in confident mood to face Everton in what will be a direct contest for a UEFA Cup place next season.

The Villains are three points behind the Toffees, who occupy fifth place in the table - good enough for a UEFA Cup berth.

The 115th Birmingham derby was nothing like as intense as the Old Firm arguments McLeish and Villa boss Martin O'Neill had when they were in charge of Scottish giants Rangers and Celtic respectively.

Birmingham were simply out-classed, out-thought and out-fought in an opening 45 minutes of Villa dominance.

Gareth Barry was infectious with his driving enthusiasm and could easily have had two goals himself before Villa finally made their superiority tell in the 28th minute.

Barry was involved again, with Liam Ridgewell failing to clear his cross adequately at the near post and when Juventus-bound Olof Mellberg returned the ball into the area, Young swept a powerful shot beyond goalkeeper Maik Taylor.

Birmingham had arrived at Villa Park with the knowledge of how to win there, having been successful in four of their previous six visits.

However, on this occasion they simply collapsed without the fight McLeish had asked for prior to his first taste of this West Midlands derby.

Villa, filled with confidence, saw Carew add a second three minutes before half-time with a glancing header from Young's free-kick. Birmingham wilted and simply did not recover.

The damage limitation exercise lasted only eight minutes of the second period before Barry, latching on to Young's clever pass, defeated Ridgewell far too easily before providing Carew with the simplest of tap-ins from 10 yards, for his 12th goal of an increasingly productive season.

Birmingham simply could not handle Young and he collected his eighth goal of the season 10 minutes later when Taylor was only able to parry his initial shot back to him, following a devastating burst into the area and he succeeded at the second attempt from an acute angle.

Birmingham substitute Forssell had only been on the field for seven minutes when he rounded off some fine approach work by Gary McSheffrey and James McFadden to spoil Villa's attempt for a fourth successive clean sheet.

However, it was a minor irritation for O'Neill's men and Agbonlahor's solo effort rounded off a perfect day for the claret and blue half of the city.