Despite some wasteful finishing, Aberdeen returned to winning ways with a certain degree of swagger as they bettered Motherwell in this highly-charged, controversial clash at Fir Park.
Both sides were awarded contentious penalties, which they both missed, during a first-half packed with drama. The difference in the period was that Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney converted the rebound from his saved spot-kick, which the visitors used as a springboard for a dominant second-half display that was finally wrapped up with Niall McGinn’s late strike.
It meant a spectacular strike from Scott McDonald, who cancelled out Graeme Shinnie’s opener, was scored in vain.
In order to fix his side’s recent poor form, Derek McInnes returned to the side he knew best. Goalkeeper Joe Lewis was the only of one of the club’s eight summer signings to make the starting XI in what was otherwise a very familiar Aberdeen line-up.
A mistake from Ben Heneghan allowed the visitors to take the lead as early as the sixth minute. The centre-back was too lax in his attempt to pass up the wing, allowing Kenny McLean to block before feeding Jonny Hayes. The winger had the simple task of picking out Shinnie and the midfielder calmly passed beyond Craig Samson.
Despite the wretched conditions – or perhaps because of them – the game was being played at a frantic pace that showed no sign of dissipating when Motherwell levelled on 16 minutes.
McDonald was picked out by a Tait cross and delivered a standing overhead kick that found the net via the underside of the crossbar – a truly remarkable piece of finishing.
The early drama would not stop there. Samson failed to deal properly with a low McLean drive, allowing Rooney to nip in front of the goalkeeper.
Replays would show minimal contact between the pair and insult was added to injury when Samson saved Rooney’s penalty, only to see his adversary bury the rebound.
The game had a slight breather before bursting back into action again seven minutes before half-time. Mark Reynolds and Keith Lasley clashed in the box and a second penalty was awarded. Just like Rooney’s effort, the spot-kick was saved.
The difference this time was that Moult’s rebound was cleared on to his own post by Andy Considine, before McDonald’s follow-up was crowded out by the Aberdeen defence.
Up at the other end, Ash Taylor had two headers inside the Motherwell area to extend his side’s advantage as the half drew to a close. The second, a free-header from five yards, was particularly profligate.
The onus in the second period was for Motherwell to step up, which was always going to play right into Aberdeen’s hands with the speed of Hayes and McGinn on the flanks. The former flashed a low cross right across the face of goal, before the latter almost saw a deep free-kick turned in by Considine at the back post. In the time between, Taylor passed up his third headed chance of the game.
It almost cost the away side when Moult crashed a header off the bar a short time later.
The hosts then had the ball in the back of the net, only for Bobby Madden to whistle for offside before the midfielder’s low finish from 18 yards. Aberdeen then resumed their peppering of the home goal with Considine heading off the bar and Shay Logan having a shot saved by Samson at the back post.
The Motherwell goalkeeper pulled off an excellent stop to deny Hayes but could do little when the winger found McGinn in the final minute, as the attacker sent a stinging effort into the back of the net, sealing the victory for Aberdeen.