Elliott eclipses enigmatic Caniggia

Exotic Argentinian import on target for Dundee but Motherwell spoil party
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The Independent Football

Ciao Claudio trumpeted Dundee's programme to mark Claudio Caniggia's home debut, but surely Aye Claudio would have been more appropriate.

Ciao Claudio trumpeted Dundee's programme to mark Claudio Caniggia's home debut, but surely Aye Claudio would have been more appropriate.

Dens Park is the latest bizarre destination in a career that has taken in Rome and Buenos Aires. The golden boy of Argentina supplied a sublime goal that proved he had lost none of his allure, but Motherwell's Stuart Elliott tarnished the occasion.

Caniggia could not have wished for a better baptism. Dens Park was bathed in sunshine, as if specially ordered for the man whose national flag is emblazoned with a beaming sun. The welcome, however, was nothing like Argentina. Dundee is not given to tickertape, while the only flares belong to the city's musical contribution to the 1970s, the Average White Band.

At least the music was more up to date. The Dens Park DJ cranked up the volume for a house version of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" and "Hey Mambo Italiano", no doubt appreciated by the Dundee side who numbered five Italians, two Argentinians and a Spaniard (plus three Scots).

The Latin beat, though, did not transmit initially to the packed but muted stands. Motherwell sensed the uncomfortable atmosphere of the Caniggia housewarming and came up with a rude icebreaker: two goals in the opening five minutes.

Ivano Bonetti's defence did a good impression of staring sheepishly at their feet, allowing the guests to raid the goals cabinet in just 28 seconds. Lee Wilkie allowed Lee McCulloch to relieve him of the ball and, when Derek Adams' cross came over, Elliott buried his header and celebrated with a flash handstand that looked more at home in Buenos Aires than his native Belfast.

The Northern Ireland international doubled the advantage with a replica header, again from another Adams cross, with even the voluble Ivano Bonetti silenced.

Not so the player-manager's brother, Dario, who has just had a three-month touchline ban suspended pending an appeal. You would have thought that would have toned down Dario's behaviour, but there he was brooding over the linesman, accusing him of a mistake, then thumping his fists on the perspex dug-out minutes later at something else, before turning, arms outstretched, to implore the heavens.

Caniggia scarcely had a touch in the opening stages. Mostly he walked, but he was just conserving his energy, as he proved in the 22nd minute with a sublime goal. An electric burst of pace took him on to the goalkeeper Jamie Langfield's kick-out ahead of the static Motherwell defence and he deftly lobbed Steve Woods from 25 yards.

The sun king soaked up the adulation of his new followers, and Dundee's other Argentinian, Juan Sara, almost equalised minutes later in a carbon copy move but lofted his chip just over the bar.

Though the effervescent John Spencer twice came close to extending Motherwell's lead again, Caniggia remained the persistent threat in restoring parity. His vision is unimpaired by that straggly mane, complete with trademark headband, as he proved in the 52nd minute when Woods fumbled. Caniggia seized on the ball and unselfishly threaded it to Sara, whose profligacy was met by a dark look from his compatriot.

Ten minutes later Caniggia gave another glimpse of the pace which, in the 1990 World Cup, provoked those notorious Cameroon tackles. Motherwell showed more leniency, allowing Caniggia to conjure a searing shot which Woods superbly pushed over the bar.