Motherwell face an uphill task to stay in the Europa League after Ivelin Popov's brace put Kuban Krasnodar on course for the play-off round.

The Bulgarian twice finished from Ibrahima Balde passes in the second half to give the Russian side a healthy first-leg advantage.

Balde had earlier rattled the frame of the goal with a 25-yard strike.

John Sutton almost pulled one back for the hosts when his header came back off the post in injury time.

But the result means last season's Scottish top-flight runners-up will need to score twice in next Thursday's return leg at the Kuban Stadium to keep the third qualifying round tie alive.

After feeling their way into the match, the visitors began to control possession and perhaps should have scored with their first attack.

Stephen McManus missed a long ball, letting Balde in on Lee Hollis but the Senegalese striker lifted his shot wide.

Visiting manager Dorinel Munteanu had selected Balde ahead of summer signing Djibril Cisse and the striker's pace and poise continually tested the concentration of Motherwell's defence.

A curling shot by the 24-year-old just cleared the crossbar before his next effort from distance rebounded back of the right-hand post.

Stuart McCall's men were struggling to reverse the pattern of play, although Belemov looked less than comfortable when dealing with a high ball as he was fouled by Iain Vigurs.

That incident followed home calls for a penalty when Sutton went down in a crowded penalty area, referee Alan Bieri unconvinced there had been any infringement.

Kuban Krasnodar players celebrating

Popov (far left) is joined by his team-mates to celebrate the opening goal

Kuban's determination to take a lead home for the second leg finally told in the opening minutes of the second half.

Balde's driving run from the left took him past his marker and the low cut-back was forced home by Popov.

James McFadden had few opportunities to make an impact on the game and his first effort of the match was deflected wide of the Kuban goal before Vigurs sent a couple of volleys into the hands of Belemov.

But just as Motherwell were gaining momentum Kuban produced a clinical counter-attack to all but finish the tie.

A corner from the hosts was cleared and Balde raced clear on the right before squaring for Popov to fire past Hollis.

Cisse soon replaced Balde and the former Liverpool and QPR forward had a chance to score when played in by Charles Kabore but Hollis made a fine block.

Motherwell fans rose to celebrate in the dying seconds as Sutton jumped to meet a cross, but he and the home crowd were left distraught as the ball came back off the upright.

Lineup, Bookings (4) & Substitutions (5)

Motherwell

  • 01 Hollis
  • 03 Hammell
  • 04 Ramsden
  • 05 Hutchinson Booked
  • 06 McManus
  • 17 Francis-Angol
  • 08 Lawson (Anier - 80' )
  • 11 Vigurs
  • 14 Lasley
  • 07 McFadden Booked (Kerr - 82' )
  • 09 Sutton

Substitutes

  • 12 Nielsen
  • 15 Cummins
  • 20 Kerr
  • 18 Carswell
  • 16 McHugh
  • 22 Moore
  • 24 Anier

Kuban Krasnodar

  • 23 Belenov
  • 04 Xandao
  • 05 Angel Dealbert Booked
  • 25 Kozlov Booked
  • 06 Tsoraev (Fidler - 79' )
  • 10 Kabore
  • 22 Sosnin
  • 43 Bugaev
  • 71 Popov
  • 11 Bucur (Marcos Urena - 85' )
  • 99 Ibrahima Balde (Cisse - 82' )

Substitutes

  • 33 Karyakin
  • 02 Armas
  • 14 Bezlikhotnov
  • 15 Zhavnerchik
  • 17 Fidler
  • 07 Marcos Urena
  • 13 Cisse
Ref: Alain Bieri
Att: 6,748

Match Stats

Shots

12 18

On target

6 8

Corners

3 2

Fouls

12 14

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:12 Full time

Full Time The referee blows the whistle to end the game.

90:00 +1:49

The ball is swung over by Zaine Francis-Angol. Header by John Sutton strikes the woodwork.

87:50 Booking

Booking

87:50

The referee shows Angel Dealbert a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.

86:27

Iain Vigurs takes a shot. Aleksandr Belenov safely holds on.

85:48

Unfair challenge on John Sutton by Artem Fidler results in a free kick. Iain Vigurs takes the free kick.

85:12

Djibril Cisse takes a shot. A parry by Lee Hollis prevents the goal.

84:02 Substitution

Substitution Marcos Urena joins the action as a substitute, replacing Gheorghe Bucur.

83:22

Free kick awarded for a foul by John Sutton on Angel Dealbert. Free kick taken by Aleksei Kozlov.

81:29 Substitution

Substitution Fraser Kerr is brought on as a substitute for James McFadden.

81:29 Substitution

Substitution Balde Ibra leaves the field to be replaced by Djibril Cisse.

79:40 Booking

Booking

79:36

Roman Bugaev restarts play with the free kick.

79:36 Substitution

Substitution Henri Anier on for Paul Lawson.

79:36

James McFadden is penalised for a handball. James McFadden receives a caution.

79:00 Substitution

Substitution Artem Fidler joins the action as a substitute, replacing David Tsoraev.

77:37

Assist on the goal came from Balde Ibra.

77:37 Goal scored

Goal! - Ivelin Popov - Motherwell 0 - 2 Kuban Kra Ivelin Popov grabs a goal with a left foot finish. Motherwell 0-2 Kuban Krasnodar.

77:14

Corner from the right by-line taken by Iain Vigurs. Clearance by Balde Ibra.

76:57

James McFadden takes the chance to get an effort at goal and missed to the right of the target.

74:56

Alexandre Xandao challenges James McFadden unfairly and gives away a free kick. Keith Lasley takes the free kick. Iain Vigurs takes a shot. Aleksandr Belenov catches the ball.

74:15

Shaun Hutchinson fouled by Balde Ibra, the ref awards a free kick. Stephen McManus takes the free kick.

71:20

Iain Vigurs takes a shot. Aleksandr Belenov catches the ball.

69:48

James McFadden takes a shot and went wide left of the goal. Corner from the left by-line taken by Paul Lawson. Header by Shaun Hutchinson goes over the bar.

69:05

Foul by Anton Sosnin on James McFadden, free kick awarded. Paul Lawson takes the free kick.

67:35

A cross is delivered by Keith Lasley. John Sutton takes a shot. Aleksandr Belenov catches the ball.

66:33

Balde Ibra takes a shot. Shaun Hutchinson gets a block in. Zaine Francis-Angol fouled by Aleksei Kozlov, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Lee Hollis.

65:54 Booking

Booking

65:48

Free kick awarded for a foul by Shaun Hutchinson on Ivelin Popov. Shaun Hutchinson is shown a yellow card. Angel Dealbert takes the free kick.

64:17 Booking

Booking

64:12

Unfair challenge on Zaine Francis-Angol by Aleksei Kozlov results in a free kick. The referee shows Aleksei Kozlov a yellow card. Paul Lawson crosses the ball in from the free kick.

63:25

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Iain Vigurs by Charles Kabore. Iain Vigurs takes the free kick.

61:58

Corner taken by David Tsoraev from the right by-line. Clearance by John Sutton.

61:40

Ivelin Popov takes a shot. Lee Hollis turns it away with a finger tip save.

60:38

Balde Ibra fouled by Stephen McManus, the ref awards a free kick. Charles Kabore restarts play with the free kick.

59:04

Foul by Iain Vigurs on David Tsoraev, free kick awarded. David Tsoraev restarts play with the free kick.

56:58

Aleksei Kozlov challenges Zaine Francis-Angol unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Paul Lawson.

55:37

The referee blows for offside against John Sutton. Aleksandr Belenov takes the free kick. Roman Bugaev takes a shot and missed to the right of the target.

51:37

Assist on the goal came from Balde Ibra.

51:37 Goal scored

Goal! - Ivelin Popov - Motherwell 0 - 1 Kuban Kra Ivelin Popov scores with their right foot. Motherwell 0-1 Kuban Krasnodar.

50:44

Roman Bugaev takes a shot.

49:34

Zaine Francis-Angol fouled by Aleksei Kozlov, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Hammell restarts play with the free kick.

45:01

The second half kicks off.

45:00 +0:10 Half time

Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.

44:29

Gheorghe Bucur fouled by Simon Ramsden, the ref awards a free kick. Centre by Charles Kabore. Header at goal by Alexandre Xandao goes right of the post.

38:46

Charles Kabore takes a shot. Blocked by Steven Hammell.

36:56

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Aleksandr Belenov by Iain Vigurs. Aleksandr Belenov takes the free kick.

35:47

John Sutton takes a shot. Aleksandr Belenov safely holds on.

33:21

Charles Kabore takes a shot. Blocked by Shaun Hutchinson.

31:55

Steven Hammell fouled by David Tsoraev, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Hammell takes the free kick.

30:18

Corner taken by David Tsoraev from the left by-line. Shaun Hutchinson makes a clearance.

30:04

Roman Bugaev takes a deflected shot and went wide left of the goal.

27:25

Shot by David Tsoraev went harmlessly over the bar.

26:53

Steven Hammell concedes a free kick for a foul on David Tsoraev. Free kick taken by Alexandre Xandao.

23:44

John Sutton challenges Angel Dealbert unfairly and gives away a free kick. Aleksandr Belenov restarts play with the free kick.

23:15

Alexandre Xandao concedes a free kick for a foul on John Sutton. Steven Hammell takes the free kick.

22:44

Foul by John Sutton on Alexandre Xandao, free kick awarded. Aleksandr Belenov restarts play with the free kick.

22:08

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Keith Lasley by Charles Kabore. Lee Hollis restarts play with the free kick.

20:56

Balde Ibra takes a shot and hits the bar.

19:48

Corner taken by Iain Vigurs from the right by-line. Header at goal by James McFadden to the left of the net.

18:29

Shot by Anton Sosnin cleared the net.

17:27

Charles Kabore gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Paul Lawson. Lee Hollis takes the free kick.

16:09

Gheorghe Bucur takes a shot. Shaun Hutchinson gets a block in.

13:21

Shot by Balde Ibra went wide right of the post.

11:46

Gheorghe Bucur challenges Iain Vigurs unfairly and gives away a free kick. Keith Lasley takes the free kick.

9:26

Unfair challenge on Balde Ibra by Stephen McManus results in a free kick. Effort on goal by Ivelin Popov from the free kick hits the wall.

7:04

Free kick awarded for a foul by James McFadden on Gheorghe Bucur. Free kick taken by David Tsoraev.

4:18

Balde Ibra takes a shot and missed to the left of the net.

3:50

John Sutton has an effort at goal. Aleksandr Belenov catches the ball.

2:18

James McFadden concedes a free kick for a foul on Balde Ibra. Angel Dealbert takes the free kick.

1:04

Iain Vigurs takes the chance to get an effort at goal and missed to the right of the net.

0:00

The game gets underway.

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