Motherwell have had their Europa League campaign brought to an end by Hapoel Be’er Sheva, losing 3-0 to the Israeli side.
After a good first 43 minutes, the Steelmen suffered a lapse in concentration, allowing Miguel Vitor to get in behind and put Be’er Sheva ahead two minutes before the break. Captain Declan Gallagher was sent off after two bookings inside a minute, the latter yellow resulting in a penalty that Josue slotted home for 2-0.
Elton Acolatse made it three seven minutes from time as the Israeli team made use of their spare man. It was too steep a task to make a comeback from 2-0 down with ten men and 20 minutes to go, Motherwell’s Europa League journey ending in Israel.
Stephen Robinson’s side had been the favourites in qualifying rounds one and two, facing off against Northern Irish opposition. They managed to get past Glentoran and Coleraine to confirm a date in Israel, where they were now the underdogs.
Coming into this off the back of an impressive 3-0 win away to Aberdeen, confidence seemed high in the early stages. Motherwell were very positive in their play, Chris Long going very close to opening the scoring with a low shot.
Before that happened, however, Be’er Sheva could have been down to 10 men. Marwan Kabha launched a high challenge on Tony Watt, only picking up a booking despite his studs appearing to be off the ground.
The Israeli outfit looked quick on the break and forced Trevor Carson into his first safe on the 30-minute mark. Acolatse broke on the right, making the Well keeper stretch his legs to deny the Ajax academy graduate.
A blow was to come for Robinson two minutes before the break. Josue floated in a brilliant free kick and it left the Well defence flatfooted, Vitor finding plenty of space and heading past a helpless Carson. For how strong the away team had been, it was a frustrating goal to lose.
Towards the end of the half Be’er Sheva were again lucky not to see red. Loai Toha went out his way to bring Watt down, only being shown a yellow despite deliberate intention, the Motherwell striker picking up a booking too.
Robinson will have been disappointed to be down at the break but his side were certainly not out of this as the second half kicked off. Nathan McGinley was next to perhaps get away with a refereeing decision, appearing to make contact with Sintayehu Sallalich in the box but no penalty was given against the Steelmen.
Be’er Sheva had resorted to niggly fouls but still looked dangerous on the break as Motherwell had to commit more men forward. But another set-piece was to be the undoing of the Steelmen.
Gallagher gave away a free-kick with a cynical foul. Then, as the resulting ball was floated into the box, he brought down Acolatse in the box and was shown another yellow. Josue slotted it home as a play-off spot faded for Motherwell.
It was game over seven minutes from time as Acolatse slotted past Carson. Motherwell showed they were able to match their hosts, but in the end it wasn’t enough as Be’er Sheva secured a play-off spot. Here are three things we learned.
Be’er Sheva were very lucky to get to the end of this one with 11 men. Referee Serhiy Boyko had multiple chances to show red to a player in home colours, but opted to keep his reds in his pocket. The two challenges on Watt in particular were very debatable yellows.
But Motherwell got away with one too in the second half, McGinley making contact with the opposition in the box. These decisions could have made differences to the final outcome although, overall, Be’er Sheva probably edged it.
More than a match
Robinson may well be frustrated with how his side have left the competition. His team more than matched Be’er Sheva, a costly switch off at the back towards the end of the first half seeing them punished.
In the second half they had dominated up until the red card, 3-0 flattering the home side. Motherwell did show how good they can be in Israel but were punished for mistakes.
No rest for the wicked
Another energy-sapping 90 minutes in the humid Israeli heat will have taken plenty out the legs of these Motherwell players. But they will have to recover quickly ahead of another big match on Sunday.
Rangers will come to Fir Park at the weekend and the Steelmen will likely have to do another tireless shift of running. It’ll have been four games in 10 days once the Gers game comes about, Robinson’s side being tested to the limit at present.