Well keep damage to a minimum

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Graeme Smith kept Motherwell's UEFA Cup hopes alive with a brilliant penalty save to restrict a dominant Nancy to a 1-0 lead after Thursday night's first round, first leg.

Smith pushed away Issiar Dia's spot-kick as he made a string of crucial second-half stops.

Motherwell played most of the first period in their own half and Nancy eventually made their possession tell when Pascal Berenguer headed home three minutes before the break.

Motherwell failed to do themselves justice in their first European game for 13 years but the scoreline gives them a fighting chance of making the group stages in a fortnight's time at Fir Park.

And, despite their failure to test the French goalkeeper, they may have got an away goal had David Clarkson won a second-half penalty after being felled in the box.

The hosts were quick to send high balls into the box but Smith coped comfortably with the early pressure. Motherwell were struggling to keep possession and Nancy continued to pose questions from set-pieces.

After Keith Lasley was booked for catching Julien Feret with a trailing arm on the halfway line, Smith got down well to save Monsef Zerka's header from the consequent free-kick.

For all their possession, Nancy were not cutting Motherwell open but their dominance eventually told. Jean Calve whipped in a cross from the right and Berenguer got in front of Keith Lasley to head into the far corner.

Later Mark Reynolds gave away a 72nd-minute penalty with a clumsy challenge on Feret. However, Smith rescued Well yet again with a brilliant one-handed save from Dia's low penalty to his right.

Well substitute Jamie Murphy showed some bright touches going forward but Nancy looked more likely to get a second. However, Smith's performance has given Motherwell hope.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2008, All Rights Reserved.

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European News
Graeme Smith (Footballer)
David Clarkson

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