Owen Hargreaves put his injury problems behind him with a fabulous goal on his debut as Manchester City beat holders Birmingham City to reach the fourth round of the Carling Cup.

Hargreaves, who left Manchester United on a free during the summer, drilled a 22-yard beauty to open the scoring.

Mario Balotelli sealed an easy win from Pablo Zabaleta's cross on 38 minutes.

Birmingham rarely looked like troubling the hosts, with Curtis Davies seeing their best chance cleared off the line.

It was a tame way for the visitors' hold on the Carling Cup to come to an end, with Chris Hughton's side surrendering the trophy with a toothless display.

But in truth this match was all about Hargreaves' return, even overshadowing Kolo Toure's comeback after serving a six-month ban for a failed drugs test.

The 30-year-old midfielder was excellent during his 57-minute return.

Eyebrows were raised when Hargreaves was signed on a free transfer by City after his release by United given his injury problems over the past three years, but over the course of nearly an hour in this match he cast many of those doubts aside.

DID YOU KNOW?

Owen Hargreaves made 54 passes against Birmingham, eight more than he completed in the Premier League during his last three seasons at Manchester United

By surviving the first six minutes Hargreaves matched the total amount of playing time he had managed previously in virtually three years - and by scoring his first goal since April 2008 he set the hosts on their way to a fifth win of the season in all competitions.

It was a terrific strike, too, latching on to a loose ball and lashing his shot like an arrow into the top corner from 22 yards out.

And that was not all Hargreaves contributed. He was busy, accurate with his passing and a constant menace to Birmingham at both ends of the pitch. Many more performances like this and calls for him to be not only a regular for Manchester City but also England will not be too far away.

He has much to prove before that, though, and this win was not all down to the former England international's return.

Despite 11 changes from the side that drew with Fulham at the weekend, the hosts were always in control.

Balotelli, supported from a deeper-lying attacking position by Carlos Tevez, was lively, and it was he who grabbed the hosts' second, applying a neat finish to Zabaleta's cross on 38 minutes.

And Toure made his mark too, the Ivorian clearing off the line after Romanian goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon had dropped Jean Beausejour's free-kick, offering Curtis Davies the chance to send an overhead kick towards City's otherwise empty goal.

It was Birmingham's only attack in the first half of their first game in this competition since they stunned Arsenal in last season's final - and despite a slightly improved second-half performance, it was by far the closest the visitors came to breaching the hosts' defences.

In contrast, Manchester City continued to threaten and only two fine saves from Colin Doyle in the Birmingham goal, from Tevez and then Toure, kept the scoreline respectable.

And so it was that a Manchester City side containing Nedum Onuoha, appearing for City for the first time since April 2010, coasted home.

Match Stats

Shots

11 8

On target

7 5

Corners

4 5

Fouls

11 8

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:39 Full time

Full Time The referee brings the game to a close.

90:00 +1:39

Corner taken by Jean Beausejour from the right by-line, Headed effort from inside the area by Marlon King misses to the left of the goal.

90:00 +1:17

Marlon King takes a shot. Save by Costel Pantilimon.

88:20

Short corner taken by James Milner.

87:45

Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Jean Beausejour from the right by-line, Kolo Toure manages to make a clearance.

86:55

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Morgaro Gomis by Karim Rekik. David Murphy has an effort direct from the free kick, save by Costel Pantilimon.

85:45 Substitution

Substitution Luca Scapuzzi is brought on as a substitute for Abdul Razak.

84:48

Carlos Tevez takes a shot. Colin Doyle makes a save. Mario Balotelli takes a shot. Save made by Colin Doyle.

84:04

Corner taken by Jean Beausejour from the right by-line, clearance by Stefan Savic.

83:32

Morgaro Gomis takes a shot. Stefan Savic gets a block in.

78:15

Long range shot by Chris Burke goes wide right of the goal.

77:12 Substitution

Substitution Karim Rekik comes on in place of Wayne Bridge.

77:12 Substitution

Substitution Marlon King replaces Nathan Redmond.

75:04

Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Jean Beausejour from the left by-line, David Murphy challenges Aleksandar Kolarov unfairly and gives away a free kick. Costel Pantilimon takes the direct free kick.

74:42

Centre by Guirane N'Daw, Pablo Zabaleta manages to make a clearance.

73:51

Corner taken by Jean Beausejour from the left by-line, Nedum Onuoha manages to make a clearance.

73:22

Free kick awarded for a foul by James Milner on Chris Burke. Free kick taken by Morgaro Gomis.

72:06

Mario Balotelli takes a shot. Save by Colin Doyle.

71:41

Nikola Zigic is ruled offside. Stefan Savic restarts play with the free kick.

68:32

Curtis Davies concedes a free kick for a foul on Mario Balotelli. Carlos Tevez has an effort direct from the free kick.

66:27 Substitution

Substitution Morgaro Gomis comes on in place of Keith Fahey.

66:27 Substitution

Substitution Nikola Zigic on for Adam Rooney.

65:49

Corner taken by James Milner, clearance made by Pablo Ibanez.

64:36

Aleksandar Kolarov produces a cross.

63:22

Free kick awarded for a foul by Adam Rooney on Pablo Zabaleta. Direct free kick taken by Costel Pantilimon.

62:43

Stefan Savic sends in a cross, save made by Colin Doyle.

60:37

Effort on goal by Mario Balotelli from just inside the penalty box goes harmlessly over the target.

58:04

Nathan Redmond takes a shot. Save by Costel Pantilimon.

57:10

Free kick awarded for a foul by Stefan Savic on Adam Rooney. Jean Beausejour restarts play with the free kick.

56:02 Substitution

Substitution (Man City) makes a substitution, with James Milner coming on for Owen Hargreaves.

55:14

The ball is swung over by Chris Burke, Costel Pantilimon makes a save.

53:02

A cross is delivered by David Murphy.

49:37

Free kick awarded for a foul by Guirane N'Daw on Carlos Tevez. Free kick taken by Kolo Toure.

47:18

Foul by Jean Beausejour on Nedum Onuoha, free kick awarded. Nedum Onuoha restarts play with the free kick.

45:44

Chris Burke concedes a free kick for a foul on Wayne Bridge. Carlos Tevez restarts play with the free kick.

45:01

The second half has started.

45:00 +1:02 Half time

Half Time The ref blows to signal half-time.

44:02

Jonathan Spector takes a shot.

41:42

Abdul Razak gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jean Beausejour. David Murphy takes the direct free kick.

39:32

Carlos Tevez challenges Pablo Ibanez unfairly and gives away a free kick. Colin Doyle restarts play with the free kick.

37:50

The assist for the goal came from Aleksandar Kolarov.

37:50 Goal scored

Goal! - Mario Balotelli - Man City 2 - 0 Birmingham A goal is scored by Mario Balotelli from inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man City 2-0 Birmingham.

35:49

Pablo Zabaleta produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide right of the target.

35:24

Foul by Guirane N'Daw on Abdul Razak, free kick awarded. Pablo Zabaleta restarts play with the free kick.

34:59

Curtis Davies takes a shot. Kolo Toure makes a clearance.

34:06

Nathan Redmond fouled by Nedum Onuoha, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed by Jean Beausejour, save by Costel Pantilimon.

32:02

The offside flag is raised against Chris Burke. Kolo Toure restarts play with the free kick.

31:45

Abdul Razak concedes a free kick for a foul on Jean Beausejour. David Murphy takes the direct free kick.

28:50

Aleksandar Kolarov takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Adam Rooney.

26:51

Mario Balotelli is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Colin Doyle.

22:34

Wayne Bridge takes a shot. Blocked by Keith Fahey. Corner taken by Aleksandar Kolarov from the left by-line, Unfair challenge on Guirane N'Daw by Kolo Toure results in a free kick. Colin Doyle takes the free kick.

18:16

Unfair challenge on Curtis Davies by Carlos Tevez results in a free kick. Colin Doyle takes the direct free kick.

16:06 Goal scored

Goal! - Owen Hargreaves - Man City 1 - 0 Birmingham Owen Hargreaves grabs a goal from outside the box to the top left corner of the goal. Man City 1-0 Birmingham.

12:14

Foul by Kolo Toure on Guirane N'Daw, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Colin Doyle.

6:47

Mario Balotelli takes a shot. Save by Colin Doyle.

4:41

Pablo Zabaleta fouled by Jean Beausejour, the ref awards a free kick. Owen Hargreaves takes the direct free kick.

3:53

Pablo Zabaleta takes a shot from inside the box clearing the bar.

1:23

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Curtis Davies by Mario Balotelli. Colin Doyle takes the direct free kick.

0:00

The match begins.

Live data and text provided by our data suppliers