Black day for McManus as Motherwell out of Europe

Stephen McManus
Stephen McManus

Motherwell donned their black strips as the funeral march was played on their European campaign for another season.

Manager Stuart McCall left James McFadden, John Sutton and Iain Vigurs at home over fears the long trip to face Kuban Krasnador would see them unable to recover in time for Sunday’s Aberdeen game.

There was a different look to ’Well from the victory over Hibs with Zaine Francis -Angol restored to the line-up, Gunnar Nielsen making his debut and Fraser Kerr, Stuart Carswell and Henri Anier all handed their first starts of the season..

For Nielsen at least it would prove a memorable night as he pulled off a string of quality saves, including denying a Charles Kabore penalty, but was helpless as Stephen McManus’s own goal handed the Russians victory.

Two-nil up from the first leg, and presumably inspired by the vivid display of Cossack singing and dancing before kick-off, Kuban seemed determined to kill off the tie quickly.

Ibrahima Balde held off McManus and crossed for David Tsorayev, but under pressure from Shaun Hutchinson couldn’t keep his header down.

At the other end Kerr sent Anier scampering down the right, but his cross was just behind captain Keith Lasley who had made a good run into the box.

Anton Sosnin fires over and then a ball over the top sent Balde clear, but a comical first touch meant the chance was lost.

’Well almost took the lead in 21 minutes as Anier got to the byeline, his cutback deflected off Ibanez Dealbert, but ended up in the side netting.

The visitors were knocking the ball about well, but Kuban seemed to be able to create chances at will as Blade was denied twice and Sosnin went close.

Just before half-time there were appeals for a penalty as Marco Urena tripped himself up going between Stevie Hammell and Francis-Angol, referee Cristian Balaj said no, but for some reason didn’t book the Costa Rican for diving.

Five minutes into the second half and disaster for ’Well, and particularly McMANUS, as Roman Bugaev cross from the left and under no pressure the Scottish defender bulleted a header beyond Nielsen.

Nielsen then pulled off a brilliant save to deny Urena, while Stuart Carswell’s wayward strike was a close as ’Well were coming at that stage.

Then the match turned into a tale of two missed penalties.

First up in 75 minutes Nielsen denied Kabore after Hutchinson had fouled Balde in the box and then in the last minute ’Well were handed a golden opportunity to earn a very creditable result.

Djibril Cisse got himself in a real mess trying to clear and ended up handling. Bob McHugh stepped up, but yards off his line Alexander Belenov pushed the weak effort away.

In between the two spot kicks 18-year-old Craig Moore made his competitive debut for the first team, while Kuban were able to send on Cisse, perhaps showing the difference in quality between the two squads.

So ’Well’s interest in this season’s Europa League ended with a 3-0 aggregate scoreline in favour of the Russians and it is now six games since they even scored a goal in continental competition.

Kuban Krasnodar: Belenov, Xandao, Dealbert, Kozlov, Tsoraev (Bezlikhotnov 83), Tlisov, Kabore, Sosnin, Bugaev, Urena (Zhavnerchik 61), Balde (Cisse 76), Subs not used: Karyakin, Armas, Lobkarev, Fidler.

Motherwell: Nielsen, Hammell, Ramsden, Hutchinson, McManus, Kerr, Lawson (Cummins 71), Lasley (Moore 79), Francis-Angol, Carswell, Anier (McHugh 71) Subs not used: Hollis, Leitch, Erwin, McCafferty.

Referee: Cristian Balaj.

Attendance: 31,754.