Over 20,000 packed into Pittodrie to see the Dons take on Cypriot opponents in the UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round, First Leg, yesterday evening, with an impressive and confident performance from Derek McInnes men that will see the Scottish side head into next Thursday’s tie with a crucial advantage.
It was the home side who started brightly and it didn’t take long before the opening goal came. With just four minutes on the clock, Ryan Christie headed home a Gary Mackay-Steven cross to see the on-loan Celtic man maintain his good, early season, form after joining on loan from Brendan Rodgers’ side in the summer.
Argentine midfielder Sachetti committed a foul soon after, with the Apollon Limassol player only receiving a yellow card, despite the hefty challenge on Greg Stewart.
Despite the away side keeping possession, they never really troubled Joe Lewis in the first half, with Ryan Christie coming the closest two either team finding the net after his early goal, with a shot which whistled past Esteves do Vale’s post.
The Cypriots made a change at half-time with Antonio Jakolis coming on and he began to run the show as the Dons were forced back. With McInnes’ side holding on, they were getting deeper and deeper until Jander equalised for Apollon. It was Jakolis who created the opening and his cutback saw the left-back force the ball home.
Manager, Sofronis Avgousti was sent to the stand before previously cautioned Shacetti got his marching orders after a foul on the ever-influential Christie.
With just under 20 minutes to make their extra man pay, Aberdeen knew how vital a winner would be heading to Cyprus in 6 days time. With 79 minutes on the clock, Graeme Shinnie decided to have a pop at goal from range – the Dons captain’s left footed shot flew past Vale and into the top corner, sending Pittodrie into a wall of noise once again.
Despite late pressure, the side who finished second in last season’s Scottish Premiership held on to get a crucial win in the home leg of this time. With a precarious lead heading into the all-important second leg, Derek McInnes’ side will know the job isn’t finished – but the Dons have got one step closer of reaching the Group Stages with tonight’s win. The away goal will keep Limassol buoyant, with the Cypriots knowing a 1-0 victory next week would see them through… it is Aberdeen, though, who have the advantage and tonight’s confident and assured performance, along with the steely determination and winning mentality we have seen so far this summer from the Dons will allow the supporters to head overseas knowing that their destiny is in their own hands.
Aberdeen 2-1 Apollon Limassol
Christie 4′ Jander 59′
Shinnie 79′ Sachetti (sent off) 71′