Plucky Motherwell face an uphill task after their debut in the Champions League qualifiers ended in a home defeat by a clinical Panathinaikos.

Well were on top in the early stages but fell behind when a Lazaros Christodoulopoulos' free-kick deceived keeper Darren Randolph on 13 minutes.

Tom Hateley and Nicky Law both tested goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis in an end-to-end first leg at Fir Park.

But sub Charalampos Mavrias drove in the killer second after 76 minutes.

Panathinaikos had arrived in some disarray, with Greece captain Giorgios Karagounis missing the trip after rejecting a new contract with the club that flirted with bankruptsy last season.

International colleague Kostas Katsouranis was also absent from midfield, being left on the bench after his exertions for Greece at Euro 2012.

Higdon was among those to miss chances for Motherwell against the Greeks

Higdon was among those to miss chances for Motherwell against the Greeks

But the Athens side were still full of quality and gave competitive debuts to two of their seven summer signings, Venezuela defender Jose Manuel Velazquez and on-loan Wolfsburg forward Ibrahim Sissoko.

In contrast, hard-up Motherwell have lost several experienced players from their squad and and only added former Bradford City midfielder Simon Ramsden.

Yet Stuart McCall's side looked positive and Chris Humphrey fired inches over from 25 yards.

Motherwell's lack of playing resources meant that Shaun Hutchinson was drafted into the starting line-up despite playing only 45 minutes in pre-season after being hampered by a groin problem.

The young defender's rustiness proved costly when he conceded a needless free-kick on Sissoko that led to the Greeks' breakthrough.

Jean-Alain Boumsong failed to connect with Christodoulopoulos ' swinging delivery from about 40 yards, but the former Rangers and Newcastle defender's run was enough to put off Randolph and the ball curled inside the far post.

Efforts from Humphrey and Keith Lasley failed to find the target as Motherwell continued to threaten.

However, the Greeks ended the first half on top and a 25-yard strike from Jose Carlos Zeca was pushed over by Randolph.

Christodoulopoulos curled a drive just wide from 25 yards seconds into the second half, but Motherwell responded and Karnezis nervously pushed away Hateley's 30-yard free-kick off the wet surface.

The goalkeeper almost spilled a Law shot from a similar distance into his net and Michael Higdon directed a header straight at Karnezis.

Only a brilliant sliding block from Boumsong stopped Law converting after being set up by Henrik Ojamaa, who also wasted a good chance on the break.

However, after Ojamaa lost the ball on the edge of the Greek box, Sissoko found Mavrias and the right winger fired it through Randolph's legs.

Motherwell continued to push forward, but it was Panathinakos who went closest to adding to the scoring when recent signing Bruno Fornaroli blazed over having come on as a substitute.

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall : "I think we more than matched them. I don't think the scoreline reflected the performance.

"I just wanted the lads to put in a performance their families and the fans would be proud of and they did that.

"I'm disappointed with the goals. We talked about not giving silly free-kicks away with the boy's ability from set-pieces.

"We didn't want to go out with a whimper. We were pressing and probing and most people thought the goal was coming.

"It would have been nice if we could have got it to 1-1, but it wasn't to be."

Panathinaikos head coach Jesualdo Ferreira : "We experienced pressure from Motherwell, but whenever we had the opportunity to break quickly, we created problems.

"Motherwell work hard and play football that is difficult to control, but I thought we deserved the win."

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