League Cup - Hargreaves scores in routine Man City win

Wed, 21 Sep 21:34:00 2011

Owen Hargreaves needed just 17 minutes to score on his debut as Manchester City eased past holders Birmingham City 2-0 in the Carling Cup third round at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City's Owen Hargreaves (R) celebrates with Pablo Zabaleta (L) after scoring during their English League Cup soccer match against Birmingham City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England September 21, 2011 - 0

Hargreaves signed on a free transfer during the summer window after being released by City’s rivals Manchester United, where the 30-year-old endured an injury-plagued four years.

The midfielder opened his City account with a superb 25-yard strike, before Mario Balotelli made the game safe after 38 minutes.

Roberto Mancini made 11 changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Fulham on Sunday, but Manchester City’s remarkable strength in depth saw Carlos Tevez and Balotelli start up front.

Birmingham have a packed fixture schedule this season thanks to their involvement in the Europa League and boss Chris Hughton also overhauled his side, making seven changes to the team that lost 4-1 at Southampton in the Championship at the weekend.

Manchester City dominated from the first whistle, moving the ball around comfortably and Balotelli saw his shot saved by Colin Doyle.

And the hosts soon went ahead when Birmingham failed to clear their lines and Hargreaves let fly with a pin-point shot that left Doyle with no chance.

Tevez then saw his header cleared off the line, before Balotelli was just inches from converting a low cross, instead accidentally catching Doyle in the face with a stray knee.

Despite seeing little of the ball, Birmingham sounded a warning when Curtis Davies saw his overhead kick hacked off the line by Kolo Toure.

However the game was effectively ended as a contest when Wayne Bridge moved the ball wide to Aleksandar Kolarov, whose cross was converted by Balotelli from 15 yards.

Birmingham improved after the break but, despite working the ball into good positions, were unable to capitalise with Adam Rooney the lone striker.

Hargreaves’s night was brought to a close after an hour, with Mancini keen to ease the England international back to fitness and introducing James Milner.

Birmingham’s Guirane N’Daw saw his close range shot well saved by Costel Pantilimon, while at the other end, Balotelli saw his audacious chip go just wide after spotting Doyle off his line.

And Doyle produced a superb double save to first deny Tevez before keeping out Toure’s follow-up as City looked to press for a third in the closing stages.

George Scott / Eurosport

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