Carlos Tevez’s first Manchester City goal rounded off a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace and clinched a spot in the third round of the League Cup on Thursday.
The Argentina striker celebrated the 71st-minute header by cupping his ears to the Selhurst Park crowd just as he did after scoring against City in May in an apparent protest against the Old Trafford hierarchy before defecting from Manchester United.
“Thankfully he’s off the mark now - I thought he did great,” City manager Mark Hughes said. “His general linkup play, his energy and enthusiasm, all shone through.
“He has the ability to retain possession, draw people to him and then release the ball. The more he plays, the better he’ll be.”
Shaun Wright-Phillips, whose corner picked out the 25.5-million pound ($41 million) Tevez at the near post, had broken the deadlock in the 50th.
The England winger’s goal followed a frustrating first half for the Premier League’s wealthiest side against League Championship opposition when they couldn’t even produce a shot on target.
City had been eliminated by lower-league opposition at this stage last season in the League Cup, which gave City its last title in 1976.
With Hughes under pressure to produce a trophy after spending more than 120 million pounds ($195 million) rebuilding the squad since May, no risks were taken by resting any of his big names.
Centre back Joleon Lescott made his debut less than 48 hours after completing his protracted 24-million-pound move from Everton and was given an immediate test in coping with Palace’s pacy attackers Freddie Sears and Victor Moses.
“He’d only had 24 hours with the group, a light training session, but I thought it was important for him to be in the team,” Hughes said. “I made one change at the back to freshen things up, but I didn’t want to compromise ourselves too much.”
Palace - without the spending power enjoyed by City in the first year of Sheikh Mansour’s ownership - relied on loans and free signings to refresh its squad over the off-season. But the gulf in wealth and class was not apparent in the first half.
There was an anxious moment for the visitors just before the break when Shay Given came out to thwart Sears, but Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure - handed the captain’s armband as Richard Dunne completes his move to Aston Villa - was in place to clear the loose ball.
Toure, a 14-million-pound recruit from Arsenal last month, could assume the captaincy on a full-time basis.
“Kolo has great qualities and is very enthusiastic in the dressing room,” Hughes said. “He’s very much in our thoughts for the captaincy.”
City re-emerged after the break looking more dangerous and took just five minutes to score. Stephen Ireland rolled the ball across to the right flank and Wright-Phillips beat Julian Speroni at the near post.
“In the end a bit of extra quality told, but they chased and harried for every ball,” Hughes said. “There are examples of teams going out when they don’t give the competition the respect we deserve. We’re not in Europe this year so we want to do as well as we can in the competitions we’re in. It’s one that is high on our agenda.”
Next on the Premier League agenda for City is a trip to Portsmouth on Sunday when Hughes will be looking to make it three wins out of three.