Levante enjoyed its first European Cup game in the club’s over 100-year history, as it beat Scottish side Motherwell 2-0 in Scotland to all but secure a place in the Europa League group stages is practically secured.
The Valencian club only took a few minutes to settle its early nerves in Scotland and assert its superiority. It gradually stamped its authority on the game and began to inch ever closer to a breakthrough.
Míchel was Levante’s most dangerous outlet early on and spurned two great chances to open the scoring. Motherwell was far inferior to Levante technically and only managed to rouse the home crowd from the odd set piece.
Towards the end of the first half, an injury saw the Levante left-back replaced by the midfielder El Zhar, as there was no other left-sided defender on the bench. However, the reshuffle did not hinder Juan Ignacio Martínez’s side, which took the lead just a couple of minutes later.
After a long ball from German defender Lell, the Greek striker Gekas halted his run to avoid straying offside. However, Juanlu ghosted in from deep to collect the ball and beat Motherwell goalkeeper Randolh, etching his name into the history books as the scorer of Levante’s first ever goal in Europe.
The Scots attempted to regroup after the restart, although it was Gekas who came closest to scoring, forcing the home goalkeeper into a stunning save.
Motherwell upped the tempo and threw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser, but El Zhar doubled Levante’s advantage on the counterattack, sealing victory on the night and tipping the tie very much in the Spanish side’s favour.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of the Scottish side, which was unable to keep up its aggressive approach. Levante was able to stroke the ball around at will and could have added to its lead ahead of next week’s return leg at the Ciutat de Valencia.