A goal-spree from Motherwell in the second half against Glentoran handed them a sizeable Europa League first round qualifying victory, winning 5-1.
Both sides failed to score in the first half before the Glens had a man sent off early in the second half and it cost them dear. Callum Lang, Stephen O’Donnell, Liam Polworth, Tony Watt and Chris Long all found the net to hand Motherwell a morale-boosting scoreline, a Robbie McDaid consolation coming for Glentoran in stoppage time.
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Well, not winning any of their opening five Premiership matches and losing key man David Turnbull to Celtic just hours before kick off against Mick McDermott’s men. It didn’t take away from how big an occasion this was for the club, last season’s third-place finish rewarded with a return to European football for the first time since 2014.
Heavily favored to win this one, Stephen Robinson’s side needed a strong performance, and more importantly, result. They had the first big chance through Long as the home team broke on a Glens corner, but could only fire wide. A thunderous tackle from Clucas on Ricki Lamie showed that the away team weren’t prepared to go quietly.
The opening 20 minutes were fairly cagey, and although it was evident Motherwell were better on the ball, Glentoran were very organised. A deflected effort from Paul O’Neill very nearly caught Motherwell out before Trevor Carson was forced to make a great save down low from the resulting corner. Glentoran had caught their hosts napping in a wake-up call for Robinson’s men.
Long had a clear opening but keeper Dayle Coleing was able to parry easily enough. Allan Campbell had a great chance from six yards out as the half came to a close but again the away team did well to block.
Half time had the teams at 0-0 as Motherwell again were haunted by a lack of cutting edge up top. But the game took a massive turn as Clucas launched another rash challenge, this time on O’Donnell, and was given his marching orders for a second booking.
This was Motherwell’s to lose now but it was the ten-men of Glentoran who had the next flurry of chances, unlucky not to score. But alas, it was the Steelmen who were to take the lead.
A counter-attack ended up at the feet of O’Donnell, finding Lang in a tight space as the Wigan loanee got his first goal in claret and amber. It was breathing space for the home side but this tie was far from done at 1-0.
But at 2-0 it was most certainly. O’Donnell found himself in lots of space and unleashed a magnificent 25-yard strike to end the game as a contest. It was open season as the Well looked to make a statement.
Polworth headed a rebound into an empty net after O’Donnell’s effort before Watt got his first of the season four minutes following Polworth’s. Long, who had worked hard all night, got a well deserved goal before the end.
McDaid stepped up to dispatch a consolation from the spot for Glentoran, a token gesture for their effort. But a convincing win gets Motherwell’s season off and running, booking their place in round two of Europa League qualifying. Here are three things we learned.
By any means necessary, Motherwell had to win this one. A winless run of five at the start of this season had to be ended against a team they were heavily fancied against. A defeat would have been very worrying.
After a tough start, it’ll be a morale boost for Robinson and his team to run away with a convincing scoreline. It’ll be hard to build on at Celtic Park on Sunday, but it’s a start at least.
Well shape change
The claret and amber shape was changed for this one. Out went the 4-3-3, in came the 3-5-2 that Robinson utilised most effectively in the run-up to the League Cup final in 2017. It was two up strikers from the start to try and get more attacking impetus.
It was tough, but eventually a striker got a goal, Lang finding a finish. More were added at the end as Motherwell ran away with it, a good first outing for the 3-5-2.
Red card changes it
You have to feel a bit for Glentoran. Up until the red card they more than matched the Well but winning a man down was too far, their counter-attack style hampered with a man light.
It meant they couldn’t full open up at 1-0 but McDermott will be very pleased with his team’s application in this one up until the card. Especially in the first half, they gave the hosts a real good game. But eventually Motherwell’s superiority and man extra showed.