By Euan Wood
Motherwell progressed to the last eight of the Scottish Cup after defeating Aberdeen 2-1 in a commanding performance at Fir Park.
Christian Ramirez’s precise header fired Stephen Glass’ side into the ascendency early on before Kevin Van Veen pulled the Steelmen level midway through the first half.
Connor Shields close-range finish on the stroke of halftime was enough for Graham Alexander’s side to coast through to the next round.
An elated Alexander heaped praise on his side after full time:
“We were disappointed to go a goal down because we should’ve had a goal ourselves just before which was onside. We didn’t come to grips with the conditions in the first fifteen minutes, but as soon as my players understood what it was going to take to win this game; they were brilliant.
“I think that was a win for our character and personality today because we’ve had a difficult month and went one nil down after two minutes. But we spoke about character and personality, and we had to show that today and I think every one of them showed that.”
A deflated Stephen Glass understood the pressure surrounding his future at Pittodrie, but believes his sides season is not over:
“If I didn’t think it was working, I would walk away, but I think you can see the fight in the team at times. I’m fully aware of the pressures at the club. I came into the club as a full-timer at 16, there was pressure to get in a team that was fighting relegation. I managed to help them stave that off.
“We won a cup and, since I left, there’s been one trophy back. Nobody needs to tell me how big the club is, nobody needs to tell me how to get out of sticky situations.
“I believe in myself; I’ve done it since the day I was born. I’ve never given up on a football pitch and I’m not about to start now.”
It was a tense opening period of the game with both sides looking to halt their run of successive games without a victory.
Motherwell started on the front foot and thought they had netted an early opener as Joe Efford fired into the bottom left corner after latching onto Sean Goss’ long ball, but the linesman on the far side quickly raised his flag for offside.
Looking for a response, the visitors countered with pace and netted the opener after only three minutes. Ross McCrorie’s perfectly weighted delivery sailed across the face of goal and unmarked at the back post, Ramirez rose the highest to power his header past Liam Kelly.
Stephen Glass’ side almost doubled their advantage minutes later with the Motherwell backline struggling to cope with the American’s early pressure. Jake Carroll failed to clear his lines from the previous corner, allowing Ramirez to race through on goal, but the striker’s audacious chipped effort fell agonisingly wide of the far post.
With the adverse weather conditions continuing to impact both sides, the hosts pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Goss’ looping free-kick floated invitingly across the face of goal, but Sondre-Solholm couldn’t keep his attempt down as he fired over the crossbar.
The hosts continued to control possession and deservedly netted an equaliser minutes later. The architect of much of Motherwell’s attacking capabilities in the first half, Van Veen skilfully wriggled himself past several lacklustre challenges before coolly slotting his strike into the bottom left corner, leaving replacement goalkeeper Gary Woods with no chance.
The Dutchman immediately rushed to former Motherwell captain Declan Gallagher to celebrate after some early tussles between the pair.
With the final few seconds of the first half ticking away, Motherwell added a second. The Dons’ failed to clear their lines from the preceding corner kick, and Shields reacted superbly to rifle his strike home from a yard out, giving the hosts a well-earned advantage heading into the break.
In the latter stages of the second half, the hosts pushed forward in search of a vital third goal. David Bates mistimed header was intelligently read by Van Veen, who then worked his way past Gallagher before unleashing his strike on goal, but the Motherwell talisman lost his footing on the slippery surface, and the chance slowly petered away.
With the additional four minutes fulfilled, the Dons flooded the Motherwell penalty area in a desperate attempt to salvage a late equaliser.
The Steelmen failed to clear their lines with the ball ricocheting between the barrage of red shirts swarming the final third, and Lewis Ferguson’s ambitious header fell kindly to Ramirez at the back post, but the striker’s curling attempt was exceptionally clawed out of the top corner by Liam Kelly to secure his side’s place in the Scottish Cup Quarter Final draw.
Here are the three things we learned as Motherwell halt five game winless run to secure their place in the next round of the cup:
Written in the stars
The last time the illustrious Scottish Cup trophy was engulfed in claret and amber ribbons was in 1991, with Tommy McLean’s side emerging victorious after defeating Dundee United 4-3 in front of a capacity crowd at Hampden Park.
In the previous rounds, the Lanarkshire outfit saw of Morton and Aberdeen before defeating Celtic in the semi-final. In an almost eerie similarity, Graham Alexander’s side have already replicated a portion of that historical cup run, but the Motherwell boss isn’t getting swayed by destiny.
“I think someone said that last year when we beat Morton in the cup, and it didn’t last very long. So, lets focus on who we get in the next round.
“It’s a special competition, we want to be part of history and win trophies, but there is an awful long way to go before you get to the promise land at the end. We will give it our best shot in the next round.”
Glass’ Aberdeen future uncertain
Stephen Glass’ future as Aberdeen manager remains uncertain after his team succumbed to their fourth defeat in their last five matches. US-based entrepreneur and Chairman of Aberdeen, Dave Cormack, was present at Fir Park as his sides cup dreams were shattered for another year.
The future of Glass at Pittodrie rests in Cormack’s hands with supporters notably venting their frustrations to the team as they trudged up the South Stand to the temporary away dressing room.
Nevertheless, Glass is adamant he will stay until he is told otherwise:
“I think I’ve got the backing of the board, I’ve certainly got the backing of the players, but you’re asking the question for a reason.
“This club’s seen what happens when you chop and change managers every couple of years like they did when I was playing. You end up where you shouldn’t be.
“There’ll be a lot of flak flying about, most of it in my direction, but I’ll protect the players and we’ll try and win.”
The ‘Budget Bergkamp’ continues to haunt Aberdeen
Kevin Van Veen has quickly cemented himself as a cult hero within North Lanarkshire since his transfer from Scunthorpe United last summer. The 30-year-old Dutch striker has netted nine goals in all competitions and has since become an integral part of Alexander’s squad this season.
The Dutchman continues to be a thorn in the side of Stephen Glass after netting his fourth goal against Aberdeen this season. Alexander was left delighted with the forward’s display but still believes there is more to come:
“We know what Kev is. He’s a great goalscorer and will score great goals definitely. I think he still needs to bring some of the other stuff to our team. The link-up play which we know he is very good at but can be loose at times. We know he will always have opportunities to score and more often than not, he hits the target.”
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