League Cup Third Round
Wednesday 21 September 2011, 19.45 KO
City: Pantilimon, Onuoha, Savic, K Toure (c), Kolarov, Zabaleta, Hargreaves (Milner 57), Bridge (Rekik 78), Razak (Scapuzzi 86), Tevez, Balotelli
Unused: Taylor, Clichy, Suarez, Aguero
Goals: Hargreaves (17), Balotelli (38)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: Owen Hargreaves
It was a much changed City side that played the club’s first involvement in the League Cup for this season and it was a welcome back to action for Kolo Toure, who captained the side on his return. It was also a debut for new signing Owen Hargreaves, fresh from his injury hell of the last three years.
The game started slowly, but it was all City. Balotelli had a shout for a penalty turned down as he weaved his way into the box, before Zabaleta took an opportunistic volley on from the edge of the box with his left foot, but the ball sailed over the bar. Balotelli then curled a shot from the edge of the box towards the bottom corner, but Doyle got down well to hold on to the save.
But then, City’s domination paid off. Balotelli knocked the ball down for Hargreaves on the edge of the box and the former United midfielder hit an effort towards the top corner of the goal. Doyle threw himself at it, but couldn’t get close to it, and it nestled in the back of the net.
Tevez then prodded an effort over the bar, after Kolo Toure had won a header from a Kolarov corner, before Balotelli was inches away from connecting with a low cross from the left – but instead he connected with the goalkeeper, who needed treatment after a blow to his head.
And, just as the game was meandering towards half time, City doubled their lead. Kolarov broke down the left flank and looked to drive in one of his trademark smashed crosses. But, instead, he slid the ball back to Balotelli, who was just inside the box, and he was able to deftly redirect the ball into the bottom corner, across the goalkeeper.
Pantilimon then had to be alert from a series of Birmingham corners, before the defence were able to get the ball clear. Hargreaves’s evening came to an end when he was then replaced by Milner and he came through nearly an hour of his first City game unscathed. Pantilimon was then alert to smartly save from N’Daw.
Balotelli almost sealed the game for the home side soon after, when he stole in on a defensive error to intercept a slack pass. With the ball stopped dead on the edge of the box, he placed an effort towards the top corner. It had Doyle scrambling across and he couldn’t get close to it, but it flashed just over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
Kolarov then had an effort from range blocked and Tevez whipped a free kick just wide of the far post, before Balotelli smashed a shot straight at the goalkeeper. Tevez should then have made it three, as he was sent clean through by Milner, but, having carried the ball from the halfway line, his shot was straight at Doyle and Kolo Toure couldn’t put the rebound in.