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Hutinchson dismissed in Well loss
Published : 23 Aug 2012 22:17:02
Shaun Hutchinson was sent off as Motherwell suffered an all-too familiar 2-0 defeat in the Europa League play-off first leg against Levante.
Levante, who finished sixth in La Liga last season after briefly topping the table in late October, pushed Motherwell back in the first half but they were gifted a 42nd-minute opener as Juanlu ran from deep to net as the home defence waited for an offside flag.
Motherwell improved significantly and Henrik Ojamaa had two good chances but the visitors carved out a second for substitute Nabil El Zhar in the 62nd minute and killed the game off before Hutchinson was dismissed for a last-man challenge.
After the visitors presented flowers to home skipper Keith Lasley in memory of Phil O'Donnell, Motherwell had the first opening when David Navarro slipped, but Chris Humphrey could only hit the ball into the goalkeeper's hands as Michael Higdon awaited a cutback.
Motherwell were having to work hard in their own half as Levante continued to find space in front of their back four and Adam Cummins was quickly out to close down Nikolaos Karabelas with a full-blooded but fair challenge that saw the Greek player carried off on a stretcher and replaced by El Zhar.
Despite Levante's superiority, they had not cut open the Motherwell defence until the hosts shot themselves in the foot when Levante right-back Christian Lell played a high diagonal ball. Theofanis Gekas looked offside but the ball sailed beyond him and left-winger Juanlu ran from an onside position behind Tom Hateley to collect the ball before scoring
Ojamaa then had two good chances inside the box. He was closed down quickly after a one-two with Nicky Law and then failed to catch hold of a strike from 16 yards after being set up by Hateley, with the ball trundling wide. Humphrey then embarked on a strong run but his cross was just too far in front of Higdon and Ojamaa.
Motherwell had lifted the 6,286 crowd and Levante were firmly on the back foot but the hosts were cut open with a simple move.
Lell was again the provider, running on to a short forward pass that just beat Stevie Hammell, before cutting the ball back for El Zhar. The Moroccan had ample space to steer the ball past Randolph from 12 yards.
The goal sucked the life out of the game and crowd and Hutchinson's game ended when he brought down Gekas just outside the box in the 77th minute after Jose Barkero had played him through.