SPL

Theo Bair rescues point for Motherwell against St Mirren

By Sports Desk March 30, 2024

Theo Bair was on target again as Motherwell recovered from a goal down to claim a 1-1 draw against St Mirren at Fir Park.

The Canadian international bundled the ball over the line with 16 minutes left to draw the Steelmen level in an entertaining encounter that could have gone either way.

The visitors struck the bar twice before breaking the deadlock when Marcus Fraser took advantage of some poor defending to head home Greg Kiltie’s corner after 18 minutes.

Motherwell’s chances of claiming a place in the top-six have all but gone after failing to win for the second successive home fixture, while Saints remain in fifth, two points behind fourth-placed Kilmarnock

The hosts were quick out of the traps and almost went ahead on four minutes when a wonderful pass from Andy Halliday released Georgie Gent who had his effort turned on to the post.

Bair was quickest to the rebound but he would see his shot blocked and despite pleas from the home players, a short VAR check would deem that the ball had not struck the hand of James Bolton.

Surviving a close scare seemed to jolt the visitors into life and a minute later, Olutoyosi Olusanya outmuscled Gent before being denied by a good stop from Liam Kelly.

The home side had the crossbar to thank twice in the space of 30 seconds as Ryan Strain struck the frame of the goal and Mikael Mandron followed up by heading the rebound inches too high.

St Mirren had a grip on proceedings and would deservedly open the scoring after 18 minutes following poor communication between Paul McGinn and Stephen O’Donnell that led to a softly conceded corner.

Kiltie floated across the resulting set-piece and despite Halliday getting a slight touch on the ball, Fraser was on hand to nod it home at the back-post.

There was an early change for the visitors when Bolton hobbled off to be replaced by Richard Taylor.

Scott Tanser blazed over from a promising position after indecision in the home defence, before Motherwell had a chance of their own as Halliday forced an excellent save from Zach Hemming.

Both Olusanya and Halliday had opportunities in the closing stages of an entertaining first half – and there were chances at both ends following the restart.

Bair was unable to make proper contact with Gent’s tantalising delivery which allowed Hemming to gather, while at the other end, Dan Casey was able to divert Olusanya’s angled drive away for a corner.

Both sides looked to their bench in order to freshen things up and it almost paid dividends for Stephen Robinson when Keanu Baccus sent a curling effort just wide of the target.

Motherwell would level with 16 minutes remaining as Jack Vale’s cross was nodded back across goal by O’Donnell and Bair was in the right place to bundle the ball over the line.

It was all set up for a dramatic conclusion and Mandron dragged a shot inches wide as the visitors almost came up with the perfect response.

Gent had proven to be a constant threat for the Steelmen throughout the afternoon and he almost turned provider again with a dangerous cross that somehow evaded everyone inside the box.

Chances came and went for Blair Spittal and then Mark O’Hara in the final minutes but neither side would be able to come up with a vital winner.

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    Germany became the first team to reach the last 16 of the tournament as goals either side of half-time from Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan saw off tricky opponents.

    Indeed, head coach Nagelsmann suggested this was the sort of match in which his team might previously have faltered.

    "That was a very unpleasant opponent," he told MagentaTV. "You have to win a game like that first.

    "It shows a good maturing process. In November, we would not have won this game."

    It is only the second time Germany have advanced through the group stage in four major tournaments, but there is no time to relax ahead of their third match against Switzerland.

    The hosts will name a strong side as they aim to maintain their momentum.

    "It is important that we have as many players from the first XI back on the pitch as possible, because we have deliberately distributed the roles," Nagelsmann added. "We believe in the players' respective strengths in their roles.

    "It may of course be that we change one or two players; we have to see how everyone gets through this game. But as of now, everyone is healthy."

    That will be music to the ears of retiring midfielder Kroos, who is keen for Germany to go "full throttle" against Switzerland.

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    "There is little reason for the pressure to drop now because we have a bigger goal than just the round of 16," Kroos said.

    He added to RTL: "It is also a statement to come first in the group, and it is important to maintain this run."

  • Southgate 'ambivalent' towards England criticism: 'It used to annoy me' Southgate 'ambivalent' towards England criticism: 'It used to annoy me'

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    Victory would mark the first time the Three Lions have started a Euros campaign with back-to-back wins. Indeed, prior to last weekend's match, they had only once won their championship opener – also under Southgate at Euro 2020.

    Those facts were relayed to Southgate on the eve of the Denmark match, with the England manager asked if too much was expected of a team whose stuttering second-half performance against Serbia was picked apart by fans and pundits.

    But Southgate, in his fourth tournament in the role, has come to terms with the narrative around the England team.

    "I've been in this environment for eight years, so I understand it all," he said. "It used to annoy me, but now I'm ambivalent to it. Winning matches in tournaments is incredibly hard."

    Those younger members of Southgate's squad who have not previously experienced the tournament rollercoaster might have been a little more taken aback by the response to the win.

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    Germany made it two wins from two games at Euro 2024 by beating Hungary 2-0, overcoming a stern test to book their place in the last 16.

    Having had things their own way from the off in a 5-1 rout of Scotland, Germany were put under more pressure by a Hungary side chasing a response to their defeat at the hands of Switzerland.

    Marco Rossi's side created several good chances in front of a nervous crowd in Stuttgart, but they failed to make them count as Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan scored either side of half-time.

    Julian Nagelsmann's hosts are now assured of a place in the knockout rounds and can win Group A when they face Switzerland on Sunday.

    Hungary's best chance of qualifying, meanwhile, is now as one of the best third-place finishers, with Scotland their opponents on matchday three.

    Just 15 seconds had been played when Manuel Neuer was worked for the first time, smothering Roland Sallai's attempt following some hesitant Germany defending.

    The hosts soon got on top, though, and they made their dominance of possession count after 22 minutes. Willi Orban appealed in vain for a foul after being nudged by Gundogan, who teed up Musiala to lash home with Peter Gulacsi grounded. 

    Neuer then had to remain alert to keep out Dominik Szoboszlai's free-kick, and Germany survived another massive scare on the stroke of half-time.

    Sallai reacted quickest to convert on the rebound after Neuer was forced into action by Orban's header, only for an offside flag against the RB Leipzig captain to deny Hungary. 

    Another huge chance went begging for Hungary on the hour mark, Barnabas Varga failing to direct his header on target after being picked out by Sallai's left-wing cross.

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    Hungary almost got one back late on as Neuer spilled a looping cross, but Joshua Kimmich got back on the line to clear Martin Adam's shot and preserve the shutout. 

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    Having doubled Germany's lead over Scotland with a powerful finish into the roof of the net last Friday, Musiala put Nagelsmann's side ahead with a similar strike on Wednesday.

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    He is also the youngest player in history to score in a team's first two group-stage matches at a single edition of the tournament. 

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    While Germany were deeply impressive in their demolition of Scotland, Steve Clarke's side failed to attempt a shot on target in a miserable performance, leading many to ask how many conclusions could really be drawn from that game.

    Hungary certainly put up more of a fight, with their seven first-half shots the joint-most Germany have faced at the Euros since Turkiye attempted 16 against them in 2008.

    Their best opportunity, according to the expected goals figures, came after just 15 seconds as Sallai spurned a chance worth 0.36 xG. That would have been the fastest goal in Euros history, surpassing Nedim Bajrami's 23-second strike against Italy last Saturday.

    Poor finishing – as well as three saves from Neuer – cost them, and Germany upped the ante in the second half to pull away.

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