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KF Shkëndija 1 - 1 Aberdeen

HT Score: KF Shkëndija 0 - 0 Aberdeen

Europa League First Preliminary Round First Leg
KF Shkëndija scorers: Kirovski 84
Aberdeen scorers: McGinn 78.

02/07/2015 | KO: 21:05

Away Goal Scored but Tie Still Open

Aberdeen came away from Skopje with a hard earned draw this evening in their Europa League 1st Qualifying Round first leg. The Dons had controlled the opening 45 minutes against the Macedonians without looking overly threatening. After the break, backed by 7,000 very vocal fans who had made the journey to the National Stadium from Tetovo, Shkendija had the better of the second half without really troubling debutant Danny Ward in goal. Then with ten minutes to go Niall McGinn scored the opener and all important away goal. Niall scuffed Logan's cross slightly but the Northern Ireland striker once again came good on the big occasion. The 96 Aberdeen fans were delighted. However the Dons could not see out the game. Substitute Hristijan Kirovski scored a fine looping header with virtually his first touch of the ball for what was probably a deserved equaliser when looking at the balance of play. The result sets up the return leg at Pittodrie very nicely. There was some very worrying injury new for the Dons. Defender Mark Reynolds suffered an arm injury and had to leave the field. It is not yet known how serious the injury is but the defender is likely to be on the side-lines for a while.

For the first competitive game of the season Derek McInnes this evening named Danny Ward in goal. In a 4-5-1 formation Logan was at right back with Considine the left full back. Reynolds and Taylor were paired in central defence. The midfield trio were Jack, Shinnie and Flood. Hayes and McGinn were on the flanks with Rooney upfront. The home side, backed by an extremely vocal support, made a very lively start and almost scored. In the first minute Hasani almost broke through but thankfully Reynolds managed to come over and cover. Aberdeen began to settle and about five minutes in they won a free kick out on the left. Shinnie played it in and the keeper was fortunate to see the ball bounce into his hands. On 7 minutes, again from the left, Hayes swung over a good ball which keeper Jovanovski misjudged but the ball went over Rooney's head. Then on nine minutes Hayes forced the first corner which the winger took but Shkëndija headed clear. The Dons, kitted out in a mixture of the home and away strips, had by now taken control of the midfield and were forcing the Macedonians into long balls over the top. Not that that bothered the Shkëndija fans who were still giving great backing. The stadium was not even half full but there was still a great atmosphere being generated. The Shkëndija players responded by winning their first corner on 18 minutes but the set piece did not trouble the Dons. On 21 minutes Niall McGinn worked room for a shot and his low effort rippled into the side netting. The keeper probably had it covered. Vrucina was then booked for a late tackle on Shinnie. He was maybe a bit fortunate to stay on the park although to be fair Shinnie was just too quick and skilful for him. Shinnie then produced some more decent skill to weave his way to the edge of the penalty area. He setup Hayes and his snapshot just went over. Meanwhile Vrucina, who had just been booked, hit Ash Taylor in the face with a trailing arm. Big Ash did not look very impressed. On the half hour mark poor communication at the back from the Dons gave the home side their first shot at goal but the effort from Victor Juffo was well dealt with by debutant Ward. On 34 minutes Aberdeen won a free kick in a dangerous position. McGinn took it and curled it nicely over the wall but also over the bar. Hasani then was booked for a foul on Shinnie. The Turkish referee was not standing for any nonsense, although he was also letting very little go which meant the game was very stop start and prevented the Dons from getting any rhythm into their play.
In the 40th minute good play out wide by Victor Juffo saw him set up Demiri for a shot which was on target but Taylor bravely got in the way and deflected it behind. Aberdeen finished the half with some good possession but they did not create anything in the final third.

Just like at the start of the first half, the home side had a golden opportunity to score at the start of the half. They broke quickly and had a two on two and half time substitute Ibraimi would have been in but luckily for the Dons the sub slipped as he was about to gather the ball. Ibraimi was playing just off the main striker and the more attacking formation was causing Aberdeen a few problems. 53 minutes in and Demiri was booked for a late tackle on Hayes as the Macedonians continued to have a real go at the Dons. Just after the hour mark that man Ibraimi was involved in the action again when he headed a corner just past the front post. His run had not been tracked and Ward would have been relieved to see the ball go past the post. On 63 minutes Hasani whistled a free kick just over. Derek McInnes decided it was time for a change and he made a double substitution. Peter Pawlett came on to replaced Flood and Goodwillie came on for Rooney. Minutes later there was an enforced change when Mark Reynolds had to go off with what looked like an arm injury. It looked a serious knock. The defender was replaced by Paul Quinn. With twenty minutes to go you got the feeling the Dons would be happy to get out of here with a 0-0, especially as the Macedonians are traditionally strong in the final quarter of games. On 73 minutes it took a brilliant tackle from Paul Quinn to prevent a goal. Danny Ward appeared to let the ball go out for a goal kick but the ball was kept in play and flicked back into the path of Stênio Júnior, fortunately Quinn did brilliantly to take man and ball with a really strong challenge. On 77 minutes better play from the Dons saw McGinn thread the ball through for Pawlett but Pete was just offside. Then a Shinnie through ball almost found Pawlett. The Dons were enjoying their best spell of the second half and on 78 minutes they got the all important away goal.
A nice move released Logan down the right, he cut a first time back to McGinn who had started the move and although Niall's first time effort was not caught as sweetly as he would of liked, he cleverly directed the ball into the corner of the net, giving the keeper no chance. Niall ran over to the small band of Aberdeen fans behind the goal who had made the long trip. The home support were finally quiet although not for long. They were off their seats again on 80 minutes when a shot deflected off Quinn forcing Ward into a smart stop. And on 84 minutes they were going wild when Shkendija scored an equaliser. A cross into the box picked out Kirovski, who had just come on seconds earlier, and the tall striker looped a header over Ward. It was a very good header but he was given far too much space inside the box. Instead of seeing out the game comfortably in the final few minutes Aberdeen were put under real pressure although it was the Dons who had two good chances in the closing stages. In the 89th minute Taylor headed a Hayes cross over the bar, the big defender just got under the ball and in injury time Pawlett played a great ball for McGinn to run onto. The striker got a shot away but the keeper made a good block.

Despite the loss of the late goal Aberdeen will still feel confident about their chances going into the second leg a week tonight at Pittodrie.
KF Shkëndija Teamsheet
12 Jovanovski 03 Abdula (Kirovski - 84' ) 08 Polozhani 11 Demiri 06 Cuculi 05 Alimi 18 da Fonseca Salazar Junior 15 Todorovski 24 Hasani 10 Vrucina (Ibraimi - 46' ) 20 Juffo (Bejtulai - 80' ) Substitutes 01 Azizi 07 Imeri 19 Bojku 27 Totre

Bookings:  Demiri,   Hasani,   Vrucina
Aberdeen Teamsheet
Ward, Taylor, Reynolds (Quinn 69), Logan, Shinnie, Considine, Hayes, Flood (Pawlett 65), McGinn, Rooney (Goodwillie 65), Jack.

Unused Subs: McLean, Smith, Robson, Brown.
Attendance: 8,040
Venue: National Stadium, Skopje
Referee: Tolga Özkalfa, Turkey