Happy Hleb Leads Goal Blitz to See off Dons

Article excerpt

Byline: JANINE SELF

Birmingham 3

MK Dons 1

IF BIRMINGHAM boss Alex McLeish needed reassurance that his squad was deeper, stronger, better than last season, the lads from the fringe put on exactly the right sort of show for him.

The Dons were brave, but proved to be easy pickings in a Carling Cup tie which never threatened an upset and they will have learned a painful lesson. No catnaps allowed against Premier League opposition -- especially when players of the class and quality of Alexander Hleb are loitering with intent.

The Belarus midfielder would never be considered a peripheral figure but still needs game time, hence his inclusion for an hour even though McLeish spun the wheel hard on his rotation system by making nine changes.

Hleb (inset) has swapped Barcelona for Birmingham and cites the passion of the English game as a reason for turning his back on Spain. It would be fair to suggest that he was not talking about nights like this.

Yet the smile was wide and the welcome rapturous as Hleb netted his first goal in this country since November 2007 when he scored for Arsenal against Reading. Apart from anything else it sparked a mini-blitz of three goals in four first-half minutes, which is just about the perfect scenario in a cup match. …