There was a perception that the Carling Cup offered Manchester City their best chance of securing the first silverware since they joined the ranks of the super-rich, especially after they narrowly missed a Wembley appearance last season.
That notion can be knocked on the head straight away after West Bromwich Albion, full of enterprise and a will to win that their opponents could never really match, produced a splendid performance to embarrass the City manager, Roberto Mancini, after his decision to send out a team stripped of most of its familiar names for this third-round tie last night.
Mancini, with the visit of Chelsea to Manchester on Saturday at the front of his mind, made 11 changes from the line-up that started at Wigan on Sunday and paid the price. He insisted that last season's semi-final defeat against Manchester United still hurt, but not enough for him not to risk an early exit this time.
Although injuries were a factor, the biggest gamble was to field a back four among whom two players had not even made substitute appearances for City before last night while another was making his first start.
"I did not really have a choice," Mancini said. "I have injured players and others I could not risk ahead of the Chelsea game, with only two days of recovery time. We wanted to win the game but I have no regrets. I could not have done it differently."
Even the recall of Shay Given, for what may have been his last start in a City goalkeeping jersey, could not compensate, much as the Irishman demonstrated his quality for Mancini's benefit with a string of fine saves.
For his part, the Albion head coach, Roberto di Matteo, made 10 changes from the side that had beaten Birmingham last weekend but had enough experience and determination in his 11 to expose City's vulnerability and, although West Bromwich trailed at half-time, two goals in as many second-half minutes produced a just result.
Arguably, Di Matteo's changes were less surprising, given that avoiding relegation is Albion's only realistic target. Only Nicky Shorey was retained, with Soren Tchoyi, a 27-year-old Cameroonian with experience in Norway, making his debut on the left wing.
From the start, it was the home side dictating the pattern of the game, with Tchoyi's pace and power giving 20-year-old Javan Vidal a testing introduction on his debut at right back. Tchoyi's fifth-minute surge ended with the first shot of the night and, when Graham Dorrans unleashed a zippy, low drive after 16 minutes, Given had to be on his mettle to parry at the foot of his right-hand post.
City's back four also had Greg Cunningham, 19, and 20-year-old Ben Mee making their debut, so Given was never likely to have a quiet night. But there was no evidence that absence had dulled his sharpness.
His reactions to a Roman Bednar hook-shot, followed by a double save from a Giles Barnes header and Tchoyi's follow-up, were proof of that. "He played very well," Mancini said. "He is a good goalkeeper."
The surprise was that Mancini's side, in which the 18-year-old Swedish forward John Guidetti was a fourth debutant, reached half-time in front after Jo, swivelling on Patrick Vieira's diagonal pass, volleyed a 19th-minute shot past Boaz Myhill.
Given kept out an attempted chip from Barnes as City continued to concede ground in the second half, but reward came for a deserving Albion when the keeper was at last beaten – twice in as many minutes. Mancini had just added Pablo Zabaleta's experience to his defence but the goals came too soon.
There was little Given could do to prevent either, the first a 20-yard effort into the bottom left from defender Gianni Zuiverloon as City appealed in vain for a foul on Mee, the second fired home from just inside the penalty area by Simon Cox, taking advantage of a Bednar flick on.
Mancini left it late before he introduced James Milner and David Silva, but the Italian would argue that he had enough quality elsewhere to deal with a side playing a division below them last season, even though he had resisted the temptation to recall Emmanuel Adebayor.
With Cox giving Albion extra weight in central midfield alongside Dorrans and Steven Reid, Vieira's ability to influence the game was limited, which counted as a tactical victory for Di Matteo, whose use of the impressive Tchoyi and Barnes in the wide positions ensured that City's rookie back line was frequently stretched. Di Matteo will have the more difficult selection decisions on Saturday.
City's desperate push to take the game into extra time almost bore fruit when Milner charged down a Zuiverloon clearance, but Myhill stood tall to preserve his side's lead.
West Bromwich Albion (4-1-4-1): Myhill; Zuiverloon, Meite, Ibanez, Shorey (Jara, 67); Reid; Barnes, Cox, Dorrans, Tchoyi; Bednar (Fortune, 82). Substitutes not used Carson (gk), Olsson, Brunt, Odemwingie, Scharner.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Given; Vidal ( Zabaleta, 54), Boyata, Mee, Cunningham; Johnson, Vieira, Ibrahim (Milner, 71); Santa Cruz ( Silva, 80), Guidetti, Jo. Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Kompany, Kay, Veseli.
Man of the match Tchoyi.
Referee N Swarbrick (Lancs).
Match rating 7/10.