Pictures from the 1-0 defeat by Levante U.D. in the Europa League Play-Off, Second Leg at Ciutat de València.
Pictures from the 1-0 defeat by Levante U.D. in the Europa League Play-Off, Second Leg at Ciutat de València.
Alan Burrows at Ciutat de València
A brave Motherwell side bowed out of Europa League with their heads held high despite a 1-0 defeat to Levante at the Estadio Ciudad de Valencia.
The Steelmen thought they had taken an early lead when Michael Higdon’s early header flashed past Navas in the home goal but it was ruled out for offside.
Jonathan Page, Stevie Hammell and Keith Lasley all had first-half chances but couldn’t force Stuart McCall’s men in front.
The home side went up a gear or two after the half-time interval and only super saves from Darren Randolph denied Juanlu and Nabil El Zhar.
After ‘Well had thrown caution to the wind in an attempt to chase the tie, Theofanis Gekas swept in a half-volley on 72 minutes to give the Spaniards a 3-0 aggregate lead and effectively kill the game. It stayed that way, allowing the Spaniards to progress to the group stages of the competition.
McCall opted to make two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with St Mirren on Sunday. Jonathan Page and Stuart Carswell both started in place of the suspended Shaun Hutchinson with Chris Humphrey forced to accept a place amongst the substitutes.
‘Well always faced an uphill task after going down 0-2 at Fir Park last Thursday night. The job was made even harder with a crippling injury and suspension list which made for a very young starting eleven; six players under the age of 21 including four teenagers.
In contrast, the Spaniards were packed full of experience with the likes of Ballesteros, JuanFran and forming part of the defensive unit.
But it was McCall’s men who produced a mature display against the La Liga side, matching the hosts for much of the opening 45 minutes and creating the best chances.
‘Well fans would have dared to dream when the visitors had the ball in the net inside three minutes; Higdon escaped his marker to head home Steven Hetherington’s free-kick. However, the assistant referee was early with his flag and TV replays show it was a correct call from the French official.
Another Hetherington free-kick shortly after produced another free header, but Page steered the ball wide from the penalty spot. It was a glorious chance for the young defender as the home side nervously negotiated the opening exchanges.
Keith Lasley got two shots on target, none of which really forced Navas into serious action, while Levante’s Jose Barkero blasted a stinging long-range strike wide and goal-getter from the first leg Juanlu saw his curling effort drop a yard wide of Randolph’s post.
Motherwell hearts were in mouths just after the half-hour when Stevie Hammell over-cooked a pass at Page along the back line. The former Portsmouth centre-back, after initially chesting the ball down, then underhit his attempted header back towards Randolph.
Juanlu intercepted but shot wide from 18 yards with only the keeper to beat.
Hammell almost atoned for that error a minute later when, after a surging forward run, smashed a 30-yard shot that zipped narrowly wide of the right hand post.
It was the last action of an otherwise positive first period for the Fir Parkers but Levante burst out the traps after the break and threatened when JuanFran’s cross found Juanlu, but Randolph got down brilliantly to stop his header, which had taken a slight deflection off the marking Page.
The Republic of Ireland International made another great block on the hour, blocking from El Zahr after the Moroccan had run on to Barkero’s pass through the middle of Page and Hammell.
El Zahr missed another great chance, shooting over after turning inside Hammell in the penalty box.
A goal for ‘Well might have gave the hosts something to think about in the closing but Levante made their second-half possession count.
Herrero Michel was introduced in place of the otherwise ineffectual Bakero and his movement caused problems for the Steelmen rearguard. It was his run that opened up space for Juanlu on the left wing and Gekas got in front of Adam Cummins to steer the cross inside Randolph’s near post from six yards.
‘Well battled for the remainder of the game and could, and probably should have squared the game in the dying seconds. Antiguan international Zaine Francis-Angol, who had been introduced in place of Stevie Hammell, whipped in a tantalizing cross that bamboozled the home defence. Humphrey nipped in ahead of the otherwise excellent JuanFran but could only steer his close-range shot over the bar.
Motherwell are out but didn’t disgrace themselves in any Euro matches this campaign. The standard of both Panathinaikos and Levante proved the undoing but an exceptionally young squad will have gained invaluable experience which will hopefully percolate into the current season.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Ciutat de València
FULL TIME: Levante 1 – 0 Motherwell. Gekas with the only goal of the night sends Levante through.
93mins: Great chance there for a consolation goal! Francis-Angol crosses in right in front of goal. Humphrey meets it but skies over.
91mins: Pallardo tries his luck from 30 yards. He’s unlucky as it curls just over the bar.
90mins: Into added on time now.
89mins: 2 minutes left of Motherwell’s European tour for this season. Hopefully we’re back bigger and better next season!
87mins: Michel floats a ball into the back post. Could have dropped in but Page heads clear.
85mins: 5 minutes left and the ‘Well fans are on their feet chanting again. They’ve been fantastic tonight.
80mins: Stat of the night: The ‘Well side on the field right now has an average age of 20.45 years.
79mins: Levante Sub: Iborra off for Pallardo
75mins: Levante sub – Rodas on for Ballesteros
74mins: Motherwell Sub: Hammell off for Francis-Angol
73mins: GOAL: Gekas converts Juanlu’s cross at the front post.
69mins: El Zhar should have burst the net there. He chopped inside Hammell and only had Randolph to beat. Somehow scoops over from 12 yards.
67mins: Motherwell subs: McHugh and Humphrey on for Ojamaa and Carswell.
63mins: uncertainty in the Levante defence. Ojamaa pressing Ballesteros who pokes it back to Navas. He slices clear for a throw.
61mins: Randolph to the rescue! El Zhar nicks in and is clear through but as he shoots, Randolph gets enough on it with his foot to divert wide.
58mins: Frustration for Motherwell as Carswell appeared to be hacked down by Diop but ref waves play on.
56mins: It’s delivered low by Hetherington and El Zhar clears.
56mins: Free-kick in a great position for Motherwell. Ballasteros body-checking Ojamaa.
52mins: Great hands from the big man. Levante on top so far this half.
51mins: Great save from Randolph! Juanlu whips it in and Gekas meets it with a bullet header which deflects off Cummins.
45mins: Barkero and Gekas get us under way for the second half.
HT: Teams are back out. Who knows what could happen if we can nick that first goal….
45mins: HALF-TIME – Levante 0 – 0 Motherwell
43mins: Gekas inches away from being slid straight through. Thankfully Page is there with a last-ditch slide tackle and clears the danger.
42mins: Into the closing minutes of the first half. Motherwell acquitting themselves admirably against their La Liga opponents.
35mins: Game opening up. Carswell does brilliantly to clear from Barkero after a great jinking run.
33mins: Up the other end, Hammell springs Navas into action with a 30 yard drive. A fraction wide from Motherwell’s number 3.
32mins: A let off. Page tries to head back to Randolph but falls well short. Juanlu picks up but slides it just past when goal looked certain
28mins: Twice in as many minutes, Ojamaa has tried to thread the ball through to Murphy. Very nearly succeeded on both occasions
24mins: Great chance for Levante. Juanlu cuts in on his weaker foot and curls beautifully towards the back post. Flashes just past.
22mins: Free-kick 10 yards inside their half see’s the ball land at Murphy’s feet. He squares to Lasley whose shot is straight at ‘keeper.
21mins: Higdon’s header is blocked to Lasley whose own effort from 20 yards is straight at Navas.
20mins: Great run from Murphy wins our first corner
19mins: Ojamaa gets to byline but his cross is just not powerful enough to reach Murphy at the back post and Navas mops up.
17mins: Game is starting to slow down. Decent spell of possession there for ‘Well without any end product.
11mins: After two good early chances for The Steelmen, Levante are now starting to boss the game. A succession of corners and crosses.
10mins: El Zhar tried to be a bit too clever there. They had a chance to drive at ‘Well but he thankfully opts to slide it through to nobody.
9mins: Half chance for Gekas again. This time with a header from a Barkero cross. Doesn’t trouble Randolph though.
7mins: First corner of the match for Levante. Barkero delivers….Higdon batters it clear.
5mins: Another good chance for ‘Well there. Hetherington floats in a free-kick and Page peels off his man to win the header. Well past the post though.
4mins: Bit of a heart-stopping moment as Gekas finds himself 12 yards out but sclaffs the ball well wide.
2mins: And the ball is in the net! Unfortunately it’s offside as Higdon nods home. Positive signs though!
2mins: Hard tackle on Carswell wins ‘Well a free kick 35 yards from goal in a dangerous position.
1min: And the game is under way. Murphy and Lasley kick off.
Kick-off: The first half in now underway. ‘Mon the ‘Well!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We’ve had three good European performances. I was disappointed with the home one against Levante, we could have done better.
“I’ll have to see Michael’s goal again, I don’t think he was offside.
“We should have scored late on and that would have been nice for the fans. But I thought the fans were outstanding and the players were terrific, and they both lifted each other at times.”
Levante U.D. manager Juan Ignacio Martinez:
‘Well boss Stuart McCall admits he will have to be more cautious in his approach to tonight’s match that he perhaps would want.
The Steelmen are missing a number of senior players for the return leg which will be played in the boiling Levante head this evening.
That said, the Fir Park boss still intends to go with two up-front in search of netting that all important first goal.
“Had personnel being different we might have approached the game slightly different,” he said.
“We are without Hutchinson, Ramsden and Hateley – three of what you would probably call our first-choice defenders. Then you add Nicky Law and we are missing a fair deal of experience.
“I look at the match and we obviously need to be careful. We have a lot of young players in the squad and sure, people might expect us to go gung-ho and forget the consequences, but we need to protect those players or it wouldn’t be this great experience people are talking about.
“That said, we’ll still go with two up in search of the first goal and hopefully we will but on a performance that our fans and people can be proud.”
The Steelmen face La Liga side Levante UD in the Europa League Play-off, second leg this Thursday and there are still a few seats left on the charter.
We believe everyone who had shown interest in travelling with us to Levante has been contacted, if not then please get in touch as soon as possible as we have a small number of seats left.
The price for the trip which will include flights, transfers and accommodation, will be £650 – leaving Fir Park on Wednesday morning and returning to Scotland immediately after the match.
We still have a handful of places left. If you are interested in joining us, please contact Jennifer on 01698 338062 or email@example.com.
We are looking for additional staff to work in the ticket office on Saturdays, other match days and on occasion during busy sales periods.
This could be a great opportunity for Motherwell fans to get more involved with the club
The job will entail dealing face to face with customers, making cash and credit card sales, processing ticket sales through a computerised ticketing system and ticket office administrative duties.
Applicants should have the following attributes:
Hourly rate of pay £6.00
PLEASE NOTE THIS POSITION HAS NOW CLOSED.
A Thomas Reilly leveller in the third minute of injury time give St Mirren a share of the spoils after Michael Higdon had put the Steelmen in front in the opening minute.
Young midfielder Stevie Hetherington was left deflated after his full debut was tainted by a late St Mirren equaliser.
The English midfielder was making his first competitive start in Motherwell colours, getting the nod to sit at the bottom of a midfield diamond.
And the former Rangers youngster acquitted himself very well, battling hard for the full ninety minutes in the face of some talented St Mirren midfielders.
Just when it looked as if he could celebrate with all three points, Saints sub Thomas Reilly popped up with a leveller just seconds before the full-time whistle.
[pullquote]We were on the back foot for most of the second half. We all dug in and worked for each other and it took a lot out of us.[/pullquote]
“It feels like a defeat,” the 19-year old said.
“We were on the back foot for most of the second half. We all dug in and worked for each other and it took a lot out of us.
“They’re a decent side and may have deserved a draw for how they played their football
“It was a very young side and I thought everyone did well. You come to training on a Monday morning and work hard hoping you’ll be involved at the weekend.
“The two appearances I’ve made this season made me hungry and the gaffer gave me my first start today and I hope I haven’t let him down with my performance.”
Stuart McCall was left disappointed as a 93rd minute goal from sub Thomas Reilly denied ‘Well three points and a place at the summit of the SPL.
The Steelmen went ahead with just a minute of the game gone, Michael Higdon capitalising on some hesitancy in the Saints rearguard to nip in and score his first of the season.
In fairness, St Mirren dominated large periods of the match and a young ‘Well side, containing no fewer than five teenagers and eventually ten-men after Hutchinson’s red card, had to dig in and battle for everything during a rain-soaked ninety minutes.
Cruel then that a contentious refereeing decision and a late, later leveller would deny the youngsters what would have been a very hard-fought three points.
[pullquote]Our possession of the ball wasn’t good enough but the other side of it; the defending and the digging in, was excellent.[/pullquote]
“I’m really disappointed,” McCall admitted to MFC TV after the match.
“We haven’t played great today, there’s no doubt about it but there are lots of ways to win football matches. We’ve dug deep and had players out there who are not fully fit.
“Our possession of the ball wasn’t good enough but the other side of it; the defending and the digging in, was excellent.
“I think everybody in the ground could see it was our throw-in but unfortunately the referee has made a quick decision and ultimately without big Shaun in the centre of defence, we’ve lost the goal.
“There is no doubting St Mirren deserved a point for the possession they had but I thought that the grit, determination and defending; we did that part well.”
Pictures from the 1-1 draw with St Mirren in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League at Fir Park.
These action shots and more are available to buy online at motherwellpics.com.
Kris Jack at Fir Park
A late leveller from St Mirren sub Thomas Reilly denied 10-man Motherwell top spot in the SPL at a rain-soaked Fir Park this afternoon.
A goal in the first minute from Michael Higdon against his former side looked to be enough heading in to injury time before the young Buddie rescued a deserved point.
Shaun Hutchinson saw red for the second time in as many games following two controversial bookings in the final 10 minutes.
After a tough defeat to Levante U.D. in the Europa League in midweek, Motherwell looked to bounce back with a decent performance against St Mirren.
Stuart McCall handed a first SPL start to both Steven Hetherington and Fraser Kerr, as Chris Humphrey dropped to the bench and Tom Hateley missed his first game in 143 appearances. The front line of Murphy, Ojamaa and Higdon would be charged with breaching a St Mirren defence, which proved stubborn in last season’s encounters.
Danny Lennon was forced in to one significant change, with Darren McGregor suffering another cruciate injury in the defeat to Hibs last week. Sam Parkin and Steven Thompson spearheaded the St Mirren attack, with David van Zanten given a defensive start for the Sunday kick off.
Having lost the coin toss, ‘Well kicked off facing the Davie Cooper stand, and within 67 seconds had taken the lead. A long ball up the left channel from Stevie Hammell bounced over Henrik Ojamaa and Lee Mair. As the St Mirren defender looked to usher the ball back to his goalkeeper, Higdon stole in to dispossess him and slot under the advancing Craig Samson to give his side the ideal start.
The early goal spurred the Steelmen on and Jamie Murphy almost added to his goals against Kilmarnock last week but dragged his shot wide of the far post after good build-up from Ojamaa.
St Mirren looked to get a hold on the game and could have levelled when Imrie’s pacy cross was diverted over by the boot of Adam Cummins when poked toward goal by Steven Thompson. Paul McGowan then stung the palms of Darren Randolph as Saints looked to haul themselves back into the match.
Randolph then made an unorthodox stop from Thompson when the goalie was drawn out under a cross to the far side of his box. As he scampered back, the ball broke to Thompson, but his effort was stopped by the Irishman’s heel before pouncing on the loose ball. The Paisley side were coming more and more in to the game and Parkin should have tested Randolph when he had a free header from a Carey ball, but headed it wildly over.
Murphy was looking impressive in the break and after being forced from left to right, he fed Ojaama inside the box, but the Estonian shot wide of Samson’s left hand post. Saints replied via Kenny McLean who passed up a glorious chance to tie the game when played in by Thomson, but he badly miscues from eight yards, and the chance was gone.
The first half ended with Higdon falling short of bagging a brace, when Murphy found him on the edge of the box but his low drive was too straight to flummox Samson.
Randolph was the first keeper called in to action in the second half, diving to push away an effort from 25-yards from McGowan. Kenny McLean then almost caught Randolph out with a cross cum shot, as the second period raged from end to end.
Ojaama’s trickery was tying up Carey on the left and after ghosting past him to the byline, the Estonian’s cutback for Higdon was cleared by Lee Mair.
St Mirren sensed an equaliser was imminent and continued to come at Motherwell with Jim Goodwin given space at the edge of the box to crash a low drive just wide.
Both managers made substitutions, with Murphy, Law and Ojamaa replaced by Humphrey, Carswell and Francis-Angol for Motherwell, while Gary Teale replaced the ineffective Imrie.
Higdon could have put the game to bed when Humphrey picked him out on the 18 yard line, but his first time effort was blasted over and in to away fans, who jeered their former striker.
With ten minutes remaining, the game became scrappy with a flurry of bookings, most notably for Shaun Hutchinson, who complained vigorously that Steven Thompson had illegally blocked him off, injuring the defender in the process. As he received treatment, he pointed an accusatory finger at Thompson to show his displeasure and picked up a booking from Mr Norris for letting his frustration boil over and not leaving the pitch quick enough.
Steven Hetherington then went in to the book for a late challenge on McGowan, before Hutchinson received a second yellow and had to head for an early bath. A ball played to the feet of Reilly was knocked away in a challenge from the big Geordie defender; however, the sub hit the deck to draw the foul.
Norris had no hesitation in brandishing a yellow followed by a red for the challenge, which seemed harsh. The former Wallsend player did win the ball but caught the youngster in the process. A foul? Yes. A bookable offence; probably not!
Visibly distraught, he trudged off the park to applause from the home fans, but the supportive chants turned to boos directed at the officials as St Mirren grabbed an equaliser deep in to injury time.
Hammell and Teale came together with the ball spinning off the Wigan man for what should have been a home throw. Before the ball had even gone over the line, referee Norris was point for a Saints throw despite not having a great position.
A hanging ball from Teale was met by Thompson, whose downward header was brilliantly kept out by Randolph, but Reilly was first to react to slam home a cruel, but deserved leveller. It was a controversial ending to an entertaining game, but the result deprives Motherwell from taking top spot in the SPL ahead of their trip to Valencia on Thursday.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: Motherwell 1 – 1 St Mirren
93mins: GOAL, St Mirren equalise. Dejection as Reilly slams home from 5 yards after a scramble.
90mins: 4 minutes added on.
89mins: Backs to the wall stuff now as ‘Well look to cling onto the three points.
87mins: RED CARD: Hutchinson off for a second booking. Didn’t look like much in that.
83mins: Hutchinson booked for dissent after he went down clutching his face. Hetherington also carded for a tackle on McGowan.
81mins: Into the last 10 mins….feels like there is still a goal in this one.
77mins: St Mirren sub; Parkin off for Reilly.
76mins: Great chance there! Higgy looked like he was going to burst the net from Humphrey’s pass but scooped over.
75mins: Motherwell Sub: Ojamaa off for Francis-Angol
72mins: McGowan booked for what looked like a wrestling clothesline on Lasley
70mins: St Mirren with a penalty claim there. McAusland went down under slight contact from Hammell. Ref was having none of it.
68mins: St Mirren sub, Teale on for Carey. And a Motherwell sub: Law makes way for Carswell.
63mins: Motherwell Sub, Chris Humphrey on for Jamie Murphy.
61mins: And again Randolph has to react quickly to tip a McGowan effort over the bar. St Mirren piling on the pressure.
59mins: Solid hands there from Randolph to hold Carey’s rasping 30 yard free-kick.
56mins: Sensational tackle from Hutchinson there. Just as they are about to burst clean through, the big man throws himself at it and clears
53mins: McLean with a specualtive effort from 35 yards. Almost looked to have caught Randolph out but it sails just over.
51mins: Murphy, switched to right mid, cuts inside on his left foot but shoots wildly over from a good position.
48mins: Motherwell starting the brighter of the two sides but Randolph has just made a fantastic reaction save from a long effort at goal.
45mins: Parkin and Thompson get the second half under way.
45mins: It’s half-time. Motherwell 1 – 0 St Mirren
39mins: The busy Fraser Kerr wins a free-kick 30 yards out on the angle. Law to whip in….Nothing comes of it sadly.
36mins: Bit of a half chance. Ojamaa’s effort from just outside the box is neither a shot nor a cross and Samson happily collects.
33mins: Ojamaa goes close. Best chance since the goal. Murphy jinks the entire length of the St Mirren half and with the help of Kerr…slides in Ojamaa. The angle is tight but he gets his shot away and it flashes just past.
30mins: It’s a wet pitch which is helping neither side as when it gets to the final pass,it’s always going wayward. Entertaining game so far
21mins: St Mirren have had a good spell of possession. They’re throwing in crosses but the ‘Well defence is standing firm.
18mins: Randolph going for a bit of a wander there. It’s unortodox as he sprints about his box after the ball. Still 1-0 though.
17mins: Great chance for St Mirren. McGowan gets in behind Hammell and his effort is beaten away by Randolph straight to Thompson…..Thankfully Cummins gets in to clear for a corner.
9mins: Mair booked for a clumsy challenge on Murphy. Looks a dangerous position for the free-kick. Hammell floated it in but Cummins couldn’t get enough power in his header and Samson collects with ease.
7mins: Up the other end, Imrie whips in a cross and Thompson gets in front ot Cummins to divert goalwards. Somehow goes out for a corner.
5mins: Murphy being utilised in the hole behind Ojamaa and Higdon and he’s already causing problems. Looks dangerous.
4mins: Kerr with some neat play with Lasley wins a corner. Samson spills Hetherington’s delivery but mops up at the second attempt.
1min: GOAL!!!! Michael Higdon opens the scoring! Bit of a nothing ball up front which Ojamaa flicks on. Higdon shows his strength and brushes off his man before sliding the ball home.
1min: Teams switching ends. The Steelmen shooting towards the Cooper Stand in the first half. Game now underway.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I was disappointed for the lads and didn’t want to see them around (referee Euan) Norris at the end of the game,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that St Mirren deserved a share of the points but we’re disappointed in the way that it came about.
“Overall we weren’t good enough in possession and struggled to keep the ball.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“It is a very difficult place to come and this was a very valuable point.
“We can look at Motherwell and aspire to reach the levels of consistency they have in order to qualify for Europe.
“We got off to the worst possible start and that’s two weeks in a row we’ve been punished for brave defending, but the response we got after that was great.
“We certainly deserved something from the game and I was thinking before the end that we would take something from it regardless of the result.”