Motherwell out of Europe

Michael Higdon had a goal chopped off.
Michael Higdon had a goal chopped off.
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A SECOND half goal by Theofanis Gekas put the final nail in Motherwell’s European campaign despite a brave fight in Valencia.

Already two down from the first leg ’Well faced an even harder task with Nicky Law joining Tom Hateley, Steven Saunders and Simon Ramsden on the injury list, while Shaun Hutchinson was suspended.

This meant first starts of the season for Stuart Carswell in midfield and central defender Jonathan Page, who came in from the cold, while Fraser Kerr and Steven Hetherington retained their places from the weekend draw with St Mirren.

On the flip side Levante named a strong team with with Pape Diop, now free of Visa issues, able to play and veteran former Spain internationalist Juanfran in the side.

There was one piece of good news for the visitors as Michael Higdon had recovered sufficiently from an achilles problem to pass a fitness test.

With a two goal deficit to make up the Fir Park side knew they had to score early to give themselves any chance, and thought they had done so in just three minutes.

Higdon found space in the box to head Hetherington’s free-kick into the net, but his celebrations, and those of the 400-strong travelling support, were cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Keith Lasley tested Levante goalkeeper Navas with two shots on target, while at the other end Jose Barkero fired a powerful long-range strike wide and did Juanlu with a curling effort.

There was a scare on 32 minutes as Steven Hammell fizzed a pass at Page, who did well to control it on his chest, but his back header to Darren Randloph was weak allowing Juanlu to intercept but he knocked the ball wide.

Motherwell had done well to be level at the break, but Levante came out in the second half seemingly determined to kill off the tie completely.

Randolph got down brilliantly to save Juanlu’s deflected header off Page from a Juanfran cross and the Irish ’keeper did well to block from Nabil El Zahr.

On 72 miunites Levante finally made their possession count as Juanlu crossed from the left and GEKAS got in front of Adam Cummins to steer the ball inside Randolph’s near post from six yards.

Late on substitute Chris Humphrey had a great chance to grab an equaliser, but he missed the target meaning ’Well were out of Europe having failed to score in any of their four games this season.

Levante: Navas, Navarro, Juanfran, Ballesteros (Rodas Hector 76), Pedro Lopez, Barkero (Herrero Michel 61), Gomez Juanlu, Papakouli Diop, El Zhar, Vicente Iborra (Pallardo 79), Gekas. Subs not used: Munua, Lell, Oscar Serrano, Rodriguez Angel.

Motherwell: Randolph, Hammell (Francis-Angol 74), Kerr, Page, Cummins, Lasley, Carswell (Humphrey 68), Hetherington, Ojamaa (McHugh 67), Higdon, Murphy. Subs not used: Hollis, Murray, Daley Asghar.

Referee: Clement Turpin.

Attendance: 13,398.