The new manager made three changes to the Aberdeen side that drew 1-1 with St Johnstone on Tuesday night, Jack MacKenzie and Matty Kennedy starting from the bench, Scott Brown missing through injury. Into the starting XI came Vicente Besuijen, Adam Montgomery and fit again Ross McCrorie.
Motherwell named an unchanged side from the one that defeated the Dons 2-1 at Fir Park in the Scottish Cup last Saturday.
In contrast to the previous week at Fir Park, the game kicked off in blazing sunshine and the Dons won a 1st minute free-kick. Lewis Ferguson stepped up to take from 25 yards and it was heading for the top corner until Kelly flapped it to safety. Motherwell were straight up the other end where McCrorie went into the book for a late, sliding challenge.
The Dons were on the break from a Motherwell corner on five minutes, Connor Barron winning a good tackle to set Montgomery away. His pass found Jonny Hayes who curled a cross to the back post, Calvin Ramsay heading at goal, Kelly saving reasonably comfortably. Already, the Dons were much quicker in getting forward from what we've been used to.
Quick feet from O'Hara gave him a ninth minute shot at goal, Joe Lewis saving, Hayes tidying up as the ball squirmed loose. From the corner, Goss flashed a volley over the bar.
Lewis had to be alert five minutes later as an O'Hara through ball set Van Veen away. The goalkeeper was quickly out to smother, Van Veen tumbling over him in dramatic fashion, taking a blow to his shoulder as he fell.
There was an escape from Lewis on 23 as a back-pass from David Bates looked to stick on the turf. As Lewis tried to clear, the ball was charged down by Van Veen and spun just wide of goal. The Dons responded a minute late, a fierce low Ferguson free-kick from wide on the left forcing Kelly into a low save.
On the half hour, Aberdeen looked to have grabbed the lead, Barron floating a delightful ball into the box, Christian Ramirez ghosting free to dab in a delicate finish, only to see the flag go up on what must have been a marginal decision.
The lead was only four minutes delayed though. Bates arrowed a superb through ball forward across 50 yards into the path of Montgomery down the left. He outsprinted Mugabi and squared the ball into the middle where Besuijen had accelerated forward and was free to turn the ball into the gaping net. It was another example of Aberdeen looking to be quicker onto the attack.
Motherwell continued to be a threat from corners though, Lewis hemmed in as he tried to punch clear on 37, the ball reaching Goss on the edge of the box but he slashed his volley over the bar.
A loose ball caused havoc as the game went into added time, Hayes and O'Hara stretching for it and colliding, Hayes having his sock torn to shreds by the impact. Players from both sides piled in, Mugabi smacking Hayes in the face as he was prone on the ground, the upshot being yellow cards for Mugabi and Declan Gallagher, Hayes eventually limping off after lengthy treatment.
The referee then took the game back for an earlier free-kick which he tried to play the advantage from. Van Veen stepped up from 25 yards and crashed his effort against the post, the ball flying safe.
HALF-TIME: MOTHERWELL 0 ABERDEEN 1
Thankfully, Hayes was fit for the restart - and he'd found a new pair of socks - neither side making a change at the break.
Motherwell started brightly, Donnelly bending a shot from distance beyond the post, Lewis having it all under control in the opening minute of the half. Aberdeen reacted with a lovely piece of acceleration from Hayes down the left, crossing on the run. Besuijen caught it first time on the turn but his shot went straight at Kelly on 50 minutes.
Donnelly was in the book for a hefty challenge, catching Ferguson in an area that will have brought the tears to his eyes after 53 minutes. Van Veen caused trouble again moments later, getting away from Gallagher and firing in a shot, Lewis equal to it at his near post.
The Steelmen made their first substitution after 63 minutes, Lamie and Woolery replacing Solholm and Efford. Woolery made an instant impact, getting a shot away from just inside the box. The ball deflected off Bates and fell for Van Veen. Lewis saved well from him but the rebound dropped perfectly for O'Hara to tuck the ball away to level things up. Connor McLennan then became Jim Goodwin's first change on 70 minutes, replacing Montgomery.
Woolery was the big threat for the home side now, winning a couple of corners in quick succession, both of which had the nerves jangling, both of which were survived. Ferguson picked up a booking for dissent after the referee gave a pretty soft free-kick to the home side with eight minutes to go.
The home side had a great chance to win it on 87, Woolery's glancing header putting Shields in behind the defence, but as the angle worsened, he slashed his drive wide of the goal at the near post.
Lamie was carded as the game entered its final minute, giving Aberdeen the chance to load the box. Ramsay's delivery was scrambled clear and the game was done.