Champions League qualifier: Motherwell relishing Athens tie
Motherwell’s hopes of reaching the group stages of the Champions League lay in tatters following their 2-0 home defeat by Panathinaikos in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying round at Fir Park last week.
Even so, there is no sense of despair from management or players in the wake of that reverse. Indeed, there is a genuine feeling of anticipation as they look ahead to the return in Athens on Wednesday.
The Lanarkshire club were outwitted rather than outplayed by opponents who were more street-smart than Stuart McCall’s young side and who also carried a little fortune.
Whatever the result in Greece (and it’s unlikely that Motherwell will be embarrassed), assistant-manager Kenny Black is convinced that Motherwell will benefit from the experience.
“Stuart and I watched the DVD of the first leg on the coach journey to Dingwall on Friday and we were both still happy with the way that the team had played,” he said.
“I believe that our performance merited a draw and that the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the play, but that’s behind us now.
“They are a quality side and they brought on two substitutes who had 191 caps between them. We were maybe a bit naïve at times and there’s no hiding place in the Champions League.”
Motherwell certainly had several players – Keith Lasley, Nicky Law and Jamie Murphy among them – who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the opposing team, and Black refuses to wave the white flag just yet.
“There have always been surprise results in Europe and we can plant a seed of doubt in their minds if – and it’s a big if – we score first,” he said.
“Stuart and I will be reminding our boys that we don’t need to do that in the first 20 minutes. However, being realistic, our best chance was to catch them cold at home. Now they’ll have an idea of how we play.
“The good thing for us is that there is the safety net of the Europa League play-off round if we go out next week and, without being in any way defeatist, maybe that’s our level.
“Still, we’ll be going there to win and every single one of us will benefit from this game in the Olympic Stadium.
“As well as our own game, I also went to watch St Johnstone, Celtic and Dundee United’s home ties so far and I feel that every one of us should have had a better result than we did. It’s not all doom and gloom by any means.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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