Motherwell were 2-0 up on Coleraine at half time – but after 75 minutes of football including extra time, Trevor Carson stepped up to become the hero as he secured a 3-0 penalty shootout victory for the Steelmen.
The travelling team started strongly and were in front after 17 minutes through Callum Lang before Tony Watt put them firmly in the driving seat at half time. Ben Doherty changed the game with a penalty to make it 2-1 before Bevis Mugabi committed another Well foul in the box, getting himself sent off, Doherty sealing a memorable home comeback with minutes to spare.
Extra time rolled on before penalties were needed to decide this one. Motherwell scored their kicks whilst Trevor Carson became the hero, saving Coleraine’s three penalties and giving Well victory. It puts the Scottish side into the third qualifying round with a tie against Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel.
Motherwell came into this one fresh off their first league win of the season against St Johnstone. They progressed to this round after thumping another Northern Irish side in Glentoran 5-1 but this was set to be no easy trip.
Oran Kearney’s men had beaten Maribor to make this matchup a reality, a stunning feat for the part-time side. The Bannsiders were underdogs again here but Stephen Robinson knew he couldn’t turn up expecting to win.
It was the Well who had several chances inside the opening five minutes. Ricki Lamie had a shot saved, Mark O’Hara watched a shot get cleared off the line and Stephen O’Donnell was inches away from making it two from two in the Europa League.
Their early persistence paid off. Another box stramash forced a great save out of Gareth Deane from a Lang effort, the Wigan loanee doing the simple task of putting the rebound into the almost empty net.
After early attacking dominance Motherwell dropped off a bit, Coleraine not offering a whole lot at the other end either. There were brief glances, but nothing concrete, although it was clear Robinson’s side had the upper hand technically.
Before half time they made their superiority count. Lang again was getting the ball into a dangerous box, his shot falling to partner Watt who made no mistake with a brilliant driving effort.
At half time, This game was Motherwell’s to lose. But Coleraine were handed a massive chance straight after the whistle, Mark O’Hara deemed to have brought down Doherty in the box. The hero in Maribor from the spot, he stepped up to put the Northern Irish team back in this.
This buoyed the hosts and all of a sudden their visitors were in a battle. Coleraine were now the ones taking the game buy its scruff, Motherwell looking slightly unsettled by the goal.
A huge scare was to come for Robinson’s men, Gareth McConaghie putting the ball beyond Carson but it was ruled out for offside. Coleraine were dreaming of another upset and they had Well on the ropes by the hour mark.
The Showgrounds outfit were going hammer and tongs for a win as Motherwell looked to hold on. James McLaughlin passed up a massive opportunity, firing over the bar in plenty of space, standing 10 yards from goal.
Robinson must have been wondering where the side that dominated the first half had gone. Only one team looked like scoring in the final stages and it wasn’t his, a stark contrast from the first half.
It got even worse in the final minutes. Mugabi brought down Eoin Bradley and was shown a straight red card, Coleraine’s penalty hero Doherty stepping up again when it mattered to send this one to extra time.
With the man advantage and all the momentum, Kearney’s men had the upper hand going into another 30 minutes of action. It was a fairly cagey first 15 although the extra player was giving Coleraine a lift. Bradley would go so close to getting his team in front, a header coming off the post before O’Hara scrambled clear. Nobody could find a way through and to penalties this one went.
O’Hara set the tone with his cool effort and Carson became the hero, saving all three of Coleraine’s penalties in some style to get Robinson’s men over the line. A nervy night for the Fir Park side but success in the end, here are three things we learned.
Coleraine defy the odds
You’ve got to give it to Coleraine. The Bannsiders looked down and out at half time but sheer will and determination got them into the driving seat. It was a lesson in never giving up.
How things changed in the second. Coleraine got an early goal and had complete control with the score leveled and one man up in extra time. An unbelievable penalty performance got Motherwell through… speaking of which…
The Steelmen owe their progression to Carson, who made three great stops to get his team into the next round. He made a magic save as the clock ticked down in extra time before spot kick heroics.
None of the penalty kicks were particularly easy, but the Northern Irishman made himself big to get Motherwell over the line.
Motherwell turned in arguably their best 45 minutes of the season during the first half in Coleraine but what happened after that is anybody’s guess. An early penalty wobbled them a bit before complete control had gone to Coleraine.
By the time extra time started, they were a man down and right up against the wall. Robinson will be relieved to get through. He will no doubt ask questions of various elements of the game but the key objective is done and that’s all the matters.