De Bruyne finally sees off brave Hull reserves
Manchester City 4 Hull City 1
By the end there was a scoreline that reflected the dominance of a Manchester City team strong enough to beat most Premier League opposition.
The only surprise was that it took so long for them to finish off a Hull City side even Steve Bruce must have expected to lose.
The Hull manager made seven changes from the side that lost to Derby County last Friday night and yet only in the closing stages of the game did they finally cave in to the supremacy of the team at the top of the Premier League.
It required the full cast of available superstars - David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling off the bench - to finish a job against a visiting team that hung on for longer than anyone expected.
Wilfried Bony scored the first goal on 12 minutes but it was not until the substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored with just 11 minutes remaining that Manuel Pellegrini could be sure that his team would not face the inconvenience of extra-time.
By the closing stages, two more goals for De Bruyne put some distance between the two sides, although no-one could have thought it would take so long for City to be able to relax.
It is coming to something when the manager of Hull, a club that have never before in their 111-year history been in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, did not see any value in playing a full-strength team against Premier League opposition.
But such is the importance of promotion from the Championship that, even with four days until their next league fixture away to Leeds United, Bruce made his changes with that game in mind. This was a night that underlined the game's modern realities.
It meant a night on the bench for the likes of Allan McGregor, Tom Huddlestone and Shaun Maloney. The replacements chased and harried and rode their luck.
Bruce was captain of Manchester United when in 1994 questions were asked in Parliament after Alex Ferguson played a weakened side in a League Cup tie against Port Vale.
According to Ferguson, one of those who complained about the lack of stars on show was the wife of the then Port Vale manager, John Rudge.
Famously, that team contained unknowns by the names of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, who scored twice.
In the second half, Bruce sent on Mohamed Diame, Abel Hernandez and, for the first time since October last year, the Scotland international Robert Snodgrass who has had a long road back from a serious knee injury.
A three-man defence, more often than not becoming five, was Bruce's strategy of dealing with a City attack that was good enough to beat any Premier League opposition on its day.
It included David Silva, starting a game for City for the first time in almost two months, and in the end it proved much too good for Hull's second string.
Not that City showed much imagination in breaking down their Championship opposition in the first half, when they could have put the tie out of sight given the extent of their dominance.
They broke through after 12 minutes when De Bruyne got on the ball outside the area and hit a post with his right-foot shot that bounced back to Bony, who stroked it home.
One weak shot from Chuba Akpom three minutes before the break aside, there was not a lot to be said about Hull's attacking attempts.
For the rest of it, they did their best to soak up the pressure from City, who, with Sterling on the bench, were less incisive down the flanks. But, if this was a secret masterplan to go out of the competition, it looked like it might fail.
Pellegrini was anxious to put the game away and introduced Sterling after the hour and then Iheanacho in place of Bony, who had struggled to have an impact after his goal.
With ten minutes remaining, Iheanacho scored from a Silva cross as the Hull defence tired.
Two minutes later, a bad header from Andrew Robertson dropped into De Bruyne's path and he had no hesitation in putting it away. Then, on 87 minutes, the Belgian scored a right-footed free-kick to make it four.
In injury-time, Diame played in Robertson who finished beautifully go give the visiting fans something to cheer about. © Daily Telegraph, London.