Stuart McCall's side matched the Greeks for possession and chances but it was the opposition who made use of the ball better and their two goals were more than enough in the endMotherwell have it all to do if there are to progress to the Champions League proper as they went down to a 2-0 defeat by Panathinaikosin the first leg of the third qualifying round.
Despite going with an attacking line-up, Stuart McCall’s side were defeated at Fir Park and the Greeks take two away goals back with them.
It was Panathinaikos who had the first real chance of the game, Simon Ramsden brought down Ibrahim Sissoko on the edge of the box. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos stepped up but sent the free-kick over the bar.
Shortly after, Sissoko did well down the left but his cross was nodded over by Spanish striker Toche.
It took 10 minutes before Motherwell had their first chance of the match. Chris Humphrey took a touch after receiving the ball from a corner but his 25-yard effort flew just over the bar.
That only inspired the Greeks to get back into their early-game rhythm and in doing so they took the lead on the 14th minute.
Shaun Hutchinson gave away a free-kick 30-yards from goal and Christodoulopoulos’ whipped cross deceived Darren Randolph in goal and went straight in. It initially looked like it took a touch of Jean-Alain Boumsong but the pace of the ball was enough to beat the goalkeeper.
Motherwell should have been level midway through the first-half when captain Keith Lasley ran onto a pass from Jamie Murphy. He took the ball in his stride and past Boumsong in one movement but sliced his shot from just inside the box.
Ten minutes later Murphy set up Michael Higdon but his header went straight into the arms of Karnezis as Motherwell looked to pile the pressue on the Greek defence.
Christodoulopoulos almost had a second but he shot straight at Randolph after the goalkeeper initially had to put the ball out for a corner after a goalmouth scramble.
Minutes later and Motherwell’s goalkeeper was the hero of the hour again as he did well to tip over Zeca’s long range effort.
The second-half started like the first, with the Scottish side on the ropes early on. Again it was Christodoulopoulos who had the shot. The Greek created some space for himself before unleashing a 20-yard shot that flew just wide of Randolph’s left-hand post.
This spurred on Motherwell and Tom Hateley’s low free-kick was saved well by Karnezis before Nicky Law almost embarrassed the goalkeeper with a 30-yard shot that squeezed under him, but he recovered well to eventually get the ball to safety.
Higdon had another header saved by Karnezis as Stuart McCall’s men looked to get an equaliser but it was the Greeks who scored again.
Substitute Charias Mavrias scored after 75 minutes with his first two touches as he used the first to control a pass from Sissoko and a second to put the ball past Randolph.
Panathinaikos saw the game out with a bit to spare and Motherwell have a mountain to climb to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.