Manchester CIty 3 Birmingham City 0
Steve Bruce's attempt to inject some life into Birmingham City before the end of the season failed last night as Blues slumped to a disappointing defeat.
To try to coax a better performance, the Birmingham manager made four changes to the side that were held 0-0 in a dour match at home to Portsmouth last Sunday
But recalls for Darren Anderton, Clinton Morrison, Darren Carter and Stephen Clemence did not inspire Birmingham, who were distinctly second-best against Manchester City.
Blues rarely tested David James in the home goal and three second-half goals condemned the visitors to defeat.
However, Bruce was left to rue two pieces of bad luck which went against his side.
Morrison had a 'goal' ruled out by a marginal offside decision and then seconds later Robbie Fowler's header ended up in the other net via an unfortunate deflection off Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor.
Fowler claimed the goal - it was later credited to Taylor - after his effort rebounded off the post and hit the keeper.
But while Manchester City's first goal was somewhat fortunate, their superiority was underlined by late strikes from Richard Dunne and Antoine Sibierski's penalty.
"I thought we played well but a couple of decisions went against us," said Bruce.
"There is supposed to be clear daylight between a defender and a striker in offside decisions. They are supposed to go in the forward's favour but we haven't got that here.
"I've seen it on TV and there's no way Clinton was offside but the decision has gone against us and they have scored straightaway.
"It is a shame because the 3-0 scoreline flattered them. I was disappointed with the way we played against Portsmouth but I thought we did well tonight."
Bruce dropped Stan Lazaridis, Walter Pandiani, Mehdi Nafti and Damien Johnson to accommodate the incoming quartet.
City, unbeaten in three games, gave talisman Shaun Wright-Phillips his first start after four matches out injured and the England international should have put caretaker manager Stuart Peace's side ahead inside the first minute.
Fowler hit the post with a low angled shot from Kiki Musampa's pass and the ball broke kindly for Wright-Phillips but he blazed over the bar.
Birmingham recovered from their shaky opening, though, and Morrison might have put the visitors ahead in the 13th minute.
Jermaine Pennant won a free-kick 30 yards out which Anderton struck fiercely through the wall and although James spilled the ball, Morrison failed to hit the target.
Morrison's strike partner Emile Heskey also failed to test James with a shot from the edge of the box just before half-time after Mario Melchiot intelligently backheeled Pennant's pass to him.
And the half ended with further disappointment for Blues when Jamie Clapham cut his ankle in a tackle and was replaced by Lazaridis.
Birmingham played with more gusto in the second half and Morrison thought he had scored when he stabbed in Pennant's cross from close range but his effort was judged offside.
City promptly went to the other end and scored in the 55th minute as Fowler's header from Musampa's cross rebounded off the post and went in off Taylor.
Blues attempted to hit back quickly but Pennant's excellent free-kick grazed the top of the bar.
Pennant always seemed the most likely Birmingham player to conjure an opening. The on-loan midfielder, who is expected to complete a permanent move from Arsenal in the summer, was a constant threat and it was his intelligent pass which released substitute Robbie Blake but Heskey was unable to make contact.
Bruce threw on Pandiani for Anderton with 14 minutes remaining to try to salvage a point but despite finishing with four strikers, City ended up romping to victory.
Dunne doubled the hosts' lead when he powered in a free-kick from Fowler to put the result beyond doubt before Sibierski added a third goal four minutes from time from the spot after Morrison handled to complete a miserable evening for Blues.