How Aberdeen were found wanting yet again as Motherwell's new core shines
Where the Fir Park side were clinical, Aberdeen were found wanting in that final third. And while the home side appear to have found a strong centre-back pairing of Sondre Solholm and Juhani Ojala and can boast a decent and defiant goalkeeper in Liam Kelly, Aberdeen’s rearguard switched off at key moments to give Kevin van Veen and then Ojala the time and space they needed to beat Joe Lewis and secure their third successive league win.
That took Graham Alexander’s men above Aberdeen in the standings, just two points behind leaders Rangers, who will wait to see if either of the Edinburgh sides can usurp them on Sunday.
The Pittodrie side dominated possession and, in the early stages in particular, they looked menacing. They would have opened the scoring had Kelly, who was part of the recent Scotland squad, not been so adept at snuffing out the danger.
Calvin Ramsay was denied twice, while Funso Ojo also had an effort saved, too. Christian Ramirez squandered his opportunity, then Kelly had to be alert to block a Marley Watkins strike from close range before getting down to smother it before the Aberdeen player’s outstretched boot could stab it beyond him.
Although their guests were enjoying the momentum, Motherwell were unfazed and continued to make life awkward, with Tony Watt and Van Veen getting under their opponents’ skin.
They came close midway through the first half when a short corner saw Mark O’Hara deliver an outswinger into the box but Watt mistimed his jump and the moment passed.
But another cross in from the right, this time from Kaiyne Woolery, just a minute or two later, proved more productive and this time Van Veen was left in far too much space and bulleted his downward header into the net.
With their noses in front, Well looked comfortable. Aberdeen continued to enjoy more of the ball, but they were incapable of translating that into an equaliser, let alone a lead and with niggling fouls breaking up the rhythm of the match and the home team more than willing to ensure that remained the case, Aberdeen became more and more frustrated.
That showed in the technical area, with Dons boss Stephen Glass being booked after one complaint too many, and his assistant Allan Russell being shown a red as he challenged decisions after the final whistle.
But Motherwell earned their rewards. The second goal came in the 59th minute and again Aberdeen failed to keep tabs on the goalscorer.
The cross came in from Van Veen but it was his Finnish team-mate Ojala who rose to head home this time.
Aberdeen tried to hit back but they lacked the composure against an efficient and effective Motherwell. Scott Brown, Watkins, tested Kelly but he remained unflappable and unbeatable.
In fact, it was the home side who came closest to scoring again when Van Veen’s ambitious cross-come-shot forced Joe Lewis to scramble the ball off the line and Scotland cap, Lewis Ferguson to nip in and clear.