MANCHESTER CITY 2, BIRMINGHAM CITY 0
Owen Hargreaves, who recently controversially crossed the Manchester footballing divide, made a goalscoring debut for City who defeated Carling Cup holders Birmingham City to claim their last-16 place in the knockout.
Midfield man Hargreaves, discarded by United after an injury-ravaged stay at Old Trafford, was handed an unexpected chance to resurrect his ailing career at the Etihad Stadium.
Hargreaves, who had not played more than 10 minutes in a game for three years, went a long way towards his football rehabilitation in his first appearance in City colours.
After making the wrong headlines so many times, on this occasion it was a footballing fairytale as he marked his latest with a spectacular opening goal for City.
And it prompted taunts from the City supporters who urged Sir Alex Ferguson, who had ordered his release, to sign him up.
Roberto Mancini was delighted for Hargreaves saying he can still be a key player for club and country if he can stay fit.
The City manager said: “Owen is a fantastic player and he can become an important player for us if he can play and train often.
“For the last two weeks there has been no problem and we said before if we could get 45/60 minutes from him.
“It was not easy for him. It was important for him to play without being injured. He moved well and scored a fantastic goal and afterwards he was elated,”
Mancini added that if Hargreaves stays fit he could force his way into City’s Champions League squad when it can be amended in January. He said he could not have named him at this stage until he had proved his fitness.
City made 11 changes to the starting line up from Sunday’s Premier League draw at Fulham as there were full debuts for Romanian keeper Costel Pantilimon, Montenegrin defender Stefan Savic and Ivory Coast midfielder Abdul Razak.
There were also first starts of the season for Nedum Onuoha, Kolo Toure and Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli was in the tick of the action from the start having a penalty appeal rejected and forcing keeper Colin Doyle into a decent diving save.
He also provided the lay off for Hargreaves to break the deadlock in the 16th minute with a 25-yard screamer into the top corner.
They doubled their advantage seven minutes before the break when Wayne Bridge cut the ball back from the left and Balotelli swept home a shot low to the left of Doyle from the edge of the box.
City completely dominated the opening period apart from one lapse when Pantilimon failed to gather a free kick and a shot from Curtis Davies was hoofed off the line by Toure.
The second half saw Birmingham far more positive and adventurous as David Murphy twice and Chris Burke had decent attempts at goal.
Hargreaves was substituted just short of the hour as he could reflect with satisfaction on his night’s work.
City gradually began to reassert their hold as Balotelli and Tevez twice went close to adding a third goal. Tevez broke clear from half way for the second chance only to be denied brilliantly by Doyle who also did well to keep out Balotelli’s follow-up shot.
Late on there were two further City debuts for 16-year-old Dutch left back Karim Rekik, a summer signing from Feyenoord, and 20-year-old Italian striker Luca Scapuzzi who had been on the books of AC Milan as fans were given a tantalising glimpse into the future.