IT was a tale of two halves for Motherwell who survived a second half scare to see off Coleraine on penalties and secure safe passage to the third qualifying round of the Europa League after a penalty shootout.

The visitors were dominant in the first half and went into the break two goals up, but two penalties scored by Ben Doherty in the second half took the game to extra time. The game would go all the way to penalties and despite winning that way in the previous round, lightning would not strike twice for Coleraine.

Oran Kearney’s Coleraine side had pulled off an impressive victory in the previous qualifying round over European specialists Maribor to set up the tie with Stephen Robinson’s men, who themselves had reached this stage by beating Irish opposition. The highlight of an otherwise underwhelming start to the season for the Lanarkshire club was their first round 5-1 Europa League qualifying win over Glentoran.

The early spells belonged to the visitors who had good chances all within the opening minutes. It was a touch of class by Tony Watt that helped create the opener in the 16th minute. He worked space well, aided by a stepover to dig out a cross which was kept alive at the edge of the box by Stephen O’Donnell. The full-back subsequently found Callum Lang yards from goal and the on loan forward stabbed home at the second opportunity after his first effort was saved.

Moments prior, Coleraine had come close to opening the scoring themselves. James McLaughlin who had scored the all-important goal against Maribor in the previous round, rose higher than Gallagher to nod a header narrowly wide with Trevor Carson rooted to the spot. It would be two shortly after through former Celtic man Watt. The striker produced an instinctive finish into the bottom corner from the edge of the box after being teed up by Mark O’Hara to double Well’s lead, wrapping up an impressive first half for the visitors.

Unlike the opening half, the home side asserted themselves from the off after the restart and they were rewarded with a goal inside five minutes. Docherty was fouled in the box and the winger stepped up to take the spot kick and made no mistake, despite Carson going the right way the ball was struck with real force into the bottom corner.

Coleraine continued to mount pressure after their equaliser. They did have the ball in the net for a second time, but the flag was raised to deny Gareth McConaghie after he had diverted the ball home from close range.

Robinson’s men looked shaken and struggled to reassert themselves on a match they had looked entirely in control of before the break. And the home side would have a second penalty minutes before the end of the game when Eoin Bradley got the wrong side of Bevis Mugabi, who could only foul the forward and was shown a red. Doherty struck his second penalty even sweeter than his first to level the game.

The game went to extra time and Motherwell’s man less began to show. Despite going close through Chris Long, the visitor’s legs visibly began to tire, and the home side appeared buoyed by their second half performance. Bradley went closest for the visitors, his effort inches from crossing the line after Carson had saved with his fingertips.

The game went to penalties and Coleraine, who had won the previous round on spot kicks, would not profit from a shootout twice. Motherwell ‘keeper Carson remarkably saved all three spot kicks to set up a tie with Israeli outfit Hapoel Beer-Sheva in the next round.