Belfast Telegraph

Carling Cup: Hargreaves delivers on Manchester City debut

Manchester City 2 Birmingham City 0: Owen Hargreaves enjoyed a sensational Manchester City debut as he opened the scoring in his side's Carling Cup triumph over Birmingham at the Etihad Stadium.

Released by Manchester United in the summer after three injury-ravaged seasons, the midfielder drove home a superb 25-yard shot after 18 minutes and was deservedly named man of the match.

Mario Balotelli added a second before the break to secure City's passage into the last 16 and end the holders' interest in a much-derided competition that will never be dismissed by Hargreaves, as long as the former Bayern Munich man draws breath.

When Hargreaves released a video on YouTube during the summer of him being put through his paces tied to a treadmill, it seemed like the last act of a desperate man attempting to revive his career.

It turned out to be a masterstroke.

Interest was generated, with West Brom eager to seal a deal, and that in turn led to Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini making his move as the transfer deadline approached, with City clearly not in a position to secure all the midfield targets they were after.

Mancini did not expect anything quickly — and has not even named Hargreaves in his Champions League squad.

However, after virtually three years on the sidelines, punctuated by a couple of very brief appearances, totalling only six minutes of actual playing time, the 30-year-old is clearly a man in a hurry.

First, he got himself ready for action within three weeks. Then, 18 minutes into his debut, he scored.

It was some goal too, seizing on a loose ball as Carlos Tevez and Balotelli had their route into the penalty area blocked and letting fly from 25 yards.

The shot went like an arrow past Birmingham goalkeeper Colin Doyle and into the top corner.

City's fans erupted, bellowing “Fergie, sign him up”, just as they did when Tevez crossed the great divide two years ago.

That was a far more acrimonious move. Hargreaves' exit was the only plausible ending after spending so little time on the pitch.

Indeed, the goal was his first since April 2008, one of only two Hargreaves scored in 39 appearances for the Red Devils.

Although it was anticipated Hargreaves would be replaced at the break, the former England man re-appeared and lasted for another 12 minutes before departing to a standing ovation.

Balotelli could never be described as a forgotten man.

The Italian has tended to be overlooked though, as Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero went on their early-season scoring blitz.

With Tevez dropping deep, Balotelli was the focal point of City's attack and when Aleksandar Kolarov crossed from the left seven minutes before the interval, the former Inter Milan man neatly swept home his first goal of the season.

It was a good night all round for City as Kolo Toure also made his comeback after serving a six-month ban for a failed drugs test.

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