Byline: JANINE SELF
Birmingham 3 MK Dons 1 WHEN Alexander Hleb talked about missing the passion of English football he was probably not referring to nights like this. Judging by the smile on his face, the Belarussian on loan from Barcelona will not be complaining, though.
Hleb, recruited as the summer superstar, sparked a mini-avalanche of goals as he netted his first in English football since November 2007 when he scored for Arsenal against Reading.
Two further strikes by Nikola Zigic and Craig Gardner killed off the Dons and ensured Birmingham's easy passage into the fourth round of the Carling Cup.
While managers see this cup as a chance to give fringe players a run-out, it is also an opportunity for new boys to try and find their feet away from the Premier League pressure cooker.
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish spun the wheel hard on his rotation system and could not have asked for a better response than three goals in four first-half minutes from a side with nine changes.
Zigic, at 6ft 6ins, has been particularly keen to show that one giant step from him can turn out to be a giant leap for Birmingham. The jury may still be out on the Serb, who cost [pounds sterling]6million from Valencia, but popping the ball into the back of the net is a surefire way to win over the fans. …