London - Debutant Owen Hargreaves scored his first goal for more than three years and Mario Balotelli grabbed his first of the season as Manchester City beat holders Birmingham City 2-0 in a League Cup third round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Liverpool, who have won the competition a record seven times, welcomed back skipper Steven Gerrard as a late substitute after six months out with a groin injury with a 2-1 away win at Championship (second division) side Brighton & Hove Albion.
Chelsea progressed under dramatic circumstances against Fulham in west London after Fulham's Pajtim Kasami missed a second half penalty, awarded after Alex, who was sent off, brought down Kerim Frei. The match eventually finished goalless after extra time with the Blues winning the subsequent penalty shoot-out 4-3.
Hargreaves, making his debut for City, scored their opener after 17 minutes with a rasping shot from outside the penalty area, his first goal since April 2008 when he scored Manchester United's winner in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal.
Hargreaves last played a full 90 minutes of competitive soccer exactly three years ago on September 21 2008, but has battled back to fitness after a series of career-threatening injuries.
Balotelli virtually wrapped up the victory with a low strike after 38 minutes, sending Birmingham, fielding just Keith Fahey from the side that won the trophy last season, out of the competition.
Liverpool endured a tough match on the south coast against Gus Poyet's championship high fliers, but an early goal from Craig Bellamy, and a second from Dirk Kuyt after 81 minutes put them in control. Ashley Barnes replied for Brighton with a 90th minute penalty.
In other matches Southampton beat Preston North End 2-1, Everton needed extra time beat West Bromwhch Albion 2-1 and Cardiff City beat Leicester City 7-6 on penalties after the two sides were level at 2-2 after extra time.
English League Cup results on Wednesday:
Brighton 1 (Barnes 90-pen) Liverpool 2 (Bellamy 7, Kuyt 81)
Man City 2 (Hargreaves 17, Balotelli 38) Birmingham 0
Southampton 2 (Hooiveld 27, Lallana 66) Preston 1 (Barton 52)
Everton 2 (Fellaini 89, Neville 103) West Brom 1 (Brunt 57-pen) aet
Cardiff 2 (Cowie 33, Gestede 82) Leicester 2 (Howard 40, Dyer 66) aet, Cardiff won 7-6 on penalties
Chelsea 0 Fulham 0 aet, Chelsea won 4-3 on penalties
Played on Tuesday
Aldershot 2 (Rankine 47, Hylton 78) Rochdale 1 (Grimes 45)
Arsenal 3 (Gibbs 33, Oxlade-Chamberlain 58, Benayoun 78) Shrewsbury 1 (Collins 16)
Aston Villa 0 Bolton 2 (Eagles 54, Kakuta 77)
Blackburn 3 (Roberts 44-pen, Rochina 71, Vukcevic 75) Leyton Orient 2 (Mooney 64, Cox 86)
Burnley 2 (Trippier 59, Amougou 89) Milton Keynes Dons 1 (Powell 6)
Crystal Palace 2 (Zaha 18, Andrew 52) Middlesbrough 1 (Zemmama 55)
Leeds 0 Man Utd 3 (Owen 15, 32, Giggs 45)
Nottingham Forest 3 (Findley 46, Derbyshire 66, Tudgay 114) Newcastle 4 (Lovenkrands 39, 60-pen, Simpson 93, Coloccini 120) aet
Stoke 0 Tottenham 0 aet, Stoke won 7-6 on penalties
Wolves 5 (Edwards 3, Hammill 7, Elokobi 38, Spray 77, Guedioura 88) Millwall 0
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