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Motherwell 1 Aberdeen 2: visitors find enough sharpness to cut loose in humdrum affair

This was not a resounding display, but sometimes it is enough just to be effective in a knockout tie and Aberdeen will feel certain they merited the victory and progress to a match away to Hibernian in February.

Rory Fallon lashes in the opener for Aberdeen. Picture: SNS
Rory Fallon lashes in the opener for Aberdeen. Picture: SNS

If Motherwell had a grievance, it was with their own meagre second-half performance. They had enough of the ball to be in contention, but were unable to stretch Aberdeen's defence. Stuart McCall had hoped to embark on a cup run that would improve his budget, but it was Craig Brown who could value the outcome, particularly since Hibs knocked Aberdeen out at the semi-final stage last season.

"The players did exceptionally well in terms of organisation and following instructions," said Brown. "I wouldn't say we're out for revenge [against Hibs], we're just glad to have kept our interest going in the cup. It will be another testing fixture. The young boys handled this situation well."

Neither side was able to dominate. The play tended to be contained in midfield, and the only room for dynamism was on the flanks. Aberdeen ought to have carried a significant threat, since Johnny Hayes and Niall McGinn lined up either side of the central striker, Rory Fallon, but they did not see enough of the ball to become prominent in the opening period. Motherwell were better served by Chris Humphrey and Jamie Murphy, but even they could only make fleeting impressions.

Motherwell were still able to create anxiety for their opponents though. Stuart Carswell, for instance, slipped almost unnoticed into the penalty area before hitting a low shot that Jamie Langfield divert away from goal with one hand.

When Humphrey raced past Clark Robertson on the right, his cross was met by Michael Higdon's firm header, but the ball skimmed over the bar. Murphy briefly caused some menace, too, when he cut infield from the left only for his shot to be blocked.

The visitors might have felt subdued, having made little impression in an attacking sense. McGinn and Hayes still looked most likely to influence the game, and the latter's dipping shot from 25 yards was tipped over by Darren Randolph. That seemed to encourage Aberdeen, and Hayes' released Robertson down the left and his cross was headed on target from close range by Fallon, only for Randolph to make a diving save.

It took an aberration to transform a mundane match. Carswell had been competent throughout, but when he dwelled on the ball deep in his own half soon after the interval, McGinn stole it, raced towards the byeline and crossed for Joe Shaughnessy. The wing-back delicately laid the ball down into the path of Fallon, who lashed a left-foot shot high into the top corner.

Aberdeen were suddenly the sharper, more effective side. That had to extend to the defenders as well, though, since Motherwell managed to piece together an attack that led to Steven Hammell crossing for Higdon, but Mark Reynolds robbed the striker of the ball inside the six-yard box with a flawless tackle.

The home side could not conceal their vulnerabilities, and McGinn scampered past two defenders before crossing for Gavin Rae, whose shot was palmed away. The directness, and impudence, of McGinn was becoming uncontrollable for Motherwell, but the Aberdeen attacker was well-supported. Hayes remained eager to receive the ball in dangerous positions, while Shaughnessy offered constant support on the right flank. The wing-back slid one shot wide before converting Hayes' cross with a neat finish to double Aberdeen's lead.

Motherwell could only respond by changing their side, and McCall made a double substation, bringing on Zaine Fancis-Angol and Bob McHugh. The ploy was always to try to pick their way through the visitors' defence, though but Aberdeen were too well-organised to be breached.

The game had moved into time added on before Motherwell could respond. Robertson was judged to have handled the ball as he challenged Higdon in the air, and the striker converted the penalty. It came too late, though.

"I don't want to see players feeling sorry for themselves," said McCall. "We have to go and get a European place in the league now."

This was not a resounding display, but sometimes it is enough just to be effective in a knockout tie and Aberdeen will feel certain they merited the victory and progress to a match away to Hibernian in February.

If Motherwell had a grievance, it was with their own meagre second-half performance. They had enough of the ball to be in contention, but were unable to stretch Aberdeen's defence. Stuart McCall had hoped to embark on a cup run that would improve his budget, but it was Craig Brown who could value the outcome, particularly since Hibs knocked Aberdeen out at the semi-final stage last season.

"The players did exceptionally well in terms of organisation and following instructions," said Brown. "I wouldn't say we're out for revenge [against Hibs], we're just glad to have kept our interest going in the cup. It will be another testing fixture. The young boys handled this situation well."

Neither side was able to dominate. The play tended to be contained in midfield, and the only room for dynamism was on the flanks. Aberdeen ought to have carried a significant threat, since Johnny Hayes and Niall McGinn lined up either side of the central striker, Rory Fallon, but they did not see enough of the ball to become prominent in the opening period. Motherwell were better served by Chris Humphrey and Jamie Murphy, but even they could only make fleeting impressions.

Motherwell were still able to create anxiety for their opponents though. Stuart Carswell, for instance, slipped almost unnoticed into the penalty area before hitting a low shot that Jamie Langfield divert away from goal with one hand.

When Humphrey raced past Clark Robertson on the right, his cross was met by Michael Higdon's firm header, but the ball skimmed over the bar. Murphy briefly caused some menace, too, when he cut infield from the left only for his shot to be blocked.

The visitors might have felt subdued, having made little impression in an attacking sense. McGinn and Hayes still looked most likely to influence the game, and the latter's dipping shot from 25 yards was tipped over by Darren Randolph. That seemed to encourage Aberdeen, and Hayes' released Robertson down the left and his cross was headed on target from close range by Fallon, only for Randolph to make a diving save.

It took an aberration to transform a mundane match. Carswell had been competent throughout, but when he dwelled on the ball deep in his own half soon after the interval, McGinn stole it, raced towards the byeline and crossed for Joe Shaughnessy. The wing-back delicately laid the ball down into the path of Fallon, who lashed a left-foot shot high into the top corner.

Aberdeen were suddenly the sharper, more effective side. That had to extend to the defenders as well, though, since Motherwell managed to piece together an attack that led to Steven Hammell crossing for Higdon, but Mark Reynolds robbed the striker of the ball inside the six-yard box with a flawless tackle.

The home side could not conceal their vulnerabilities, and McGinn scampered past two defenders before crossing for Gavin Rae, whose shot was palmed away. The directness, and impudence, of McGinn was becoming uncontrollable for Motherwell, but the Aberdeen attacker was well-supported. Hayes remained eager to receive the ball in dangerous positions, while Shaughnessy offered constant support on the right flank. The wing-back slid one shot wide before converting Hayes' cross with a neat finish to double Aberdeen's lead.

Motherwell could only respond by changing their side, and McCall made a double substation, bringing on Zaine Fancis-Angol and Bob McHugh. The ploy was always to try to pick their way through the visitors' defence, though but Aberdeen were too well-organised to be breached.

The game had moved into time added on before Motherwell could respond. Robertson was judged to have handled the ball as he challenged Higdon in the air, and the striker converted the penalty. It came too late, though.

"I don't want to see players feeling sorry for themselves," said McCall. "We have to go and get a European place in the league now."

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