Motherwell in Europe: Pressure on Graham Alexander intensifies as boos the soundtrack of Irish embarrassment
Motherwell’s 3-0 aggregate loss to League of Ireland also-rans Sligo Rovers – currently fifth in the Premier Division – is another to add to a burgeoning list of embarrassing results on the continental stage.
Progres Niederkorn, Connah's Quay Nomads, Sigma Olomouc, Hafnarfjordur, Birkirkara and Malmo.
Now Sligo Rovers.
Motherwell have experience of chastening European losses, namely MyPa-47 of Finland in 1995. Back then the Steelmen responded to a 3-1 home loss to win 2-0 in the away leg, going out on away goals. This time around it was 180 minutes of tedium and incompetence.
A 2-0 loss in the north west of Ireland was no way to respond to what went on at Fir Park when Sligo won 1-0 through Aidan Keena's lob following Bevis Mugabi’s mistake.
They weren’t given a chance to respond. Mugabi once again involved. This time giving away an early foul following a tussle with former Hearts striker Keena.
Few could have predicted what would follow. Centre-back Blaney curled in a brilliant left-footed free-kick. Although question marks can be raised over Liam Kelly’s role in the goal. The ball was sent in his direction and he was hardly unsighted with no wall in place.
That early goal got Sligo's tails up and they didn’t shirk the physical side of the encounter. Paul McGinn was bundled over off the ball by Fitzgerald, while there were two challenges which could have produced red cards.
No response from Motherwell was forthcoming.
It is a result which will no doubt bring about the usual introspection about the 'state of the game’ in Scotland, while increasing the reliance on Celtic and Rangers to carry the coefficient chain of responsibility.
Not good enough
This is a result which can easily be taken in isolation. This Motherwell side are quite simply not of the quality to represent Scotland in Europe, not good enough full stop, and a damning indictment of what was last season’s Scottish Premiership.
Yes, there is the mitigating factor of far from ideal preparations. Due to opponents pulling out and Fir Park not being available for friendly matches, the team played just twice before the first-leg.
However, that can be no excuse for the constant wayward passing, the ponderous movement and erratic touches. Or the one-dimensional style of play which lacked pace, tempo or creativity. Or, it has to be said, quality.
That was recognised by the 300 Motherwell fans who made the journey to The Showgrounds. Quite rightly, they voiced their displeasure throughout the match. People can go on about work rate, winning battle and, fight. It means very little when, as favourites who had the majority of possession, you do absolutely nothing with it. No direction, no finesse, no conviction.
There were better moments in the second half. But they were moments and unconvincing ones at that as Sligo, who to a man defended manfully throughout and displayed a fantastic mentality, dropped deeper, giving up territory, to protect their lead and then grabbed a deserved second on the break late on through Max Mata.
Next up for Scottish clubs in Europe is Dundee United and Rangers. Next up for Motherwell is St Mirren. The pressure on Alexander intensifies with just four wins in 90 minutes in their last 23 games.
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