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HNK Rijeka 0 - 3 Aberdeen

HT Score: HNK Rijeka 0 - 1 Aberdeen

Europa League Second Preliminary Round First Leg
Aberdeen scorers: Considine 39, Pawlett 52, McLean 75.

16/07/2015 | KO: 20:00

Dons in Dreamland

Aberdeen produced one of their best ever away performances in Europe this evening in Croatia. Rijeka had not lost one of their last 12 home matches in European competition, having beaten and drawn against some top sides, but they could not contain the Dons who scored three brilliant goals. The home side started strongly and Danny Ward was forced to make a couple of excellent saves - the on loan Liverpool keeper had a very impressive evening. Midway through the first half, Aberdeen started to get into their stride and Andrew Considine headed home from a well worked corner. After the break, Peter Pawlett netted from a brilliant Logan cross and substitute Kenny McLean completed the scoring, his first Aberdeen goal, with a first time volley, set up by the outstanding Goodwillie. It was a tactical masterclass from Derek McInnes and an outstanding performance from every man in red. Even the home fans, to their credit applauded the Dons off the park at the end.

Aberdeen made three changes to the team that started against KF Shkendija at Pittodrie with Pawlett, Goodwillie and Quinn replacing McLean, Rooney and Flood. Ward retained his place in goal and was to be protected by a back three of Taylor, Quinn and Considine. Hayes was to provide the width as left wing-back with Logan starting in the same role over on the right. Jack and Shinnie played just in front of the back three with Pawlett and McGinn looking to offer support to Goodwillie, who was tasked with directly replacing Rooney as the lone striker on a night where it was expected that the home side would dominate possession. The Croatian side were strong favourites going into the match but Aberdeen, with odds of 6/1, might have been offered a little more encouragement by the fact that Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb had only managed a draw against a side from Luxembourg on Wednesday night. The Dons entered the field to be greeted by a noisy home support but the travelling support from Aberdeen were determined to be heard and offered great vocal support to the team throughout the match. The Croatians started the game very strongly. The first chance of the evening came in the third minute when Tomasov latched on to a ball over the top and volleyed wide with a first time effort from 10 yards. Tomasov then won the home side a free-kick just inside the touchline in the sixth minute, fizzing a dangerous looking ball into the area, but Shinnie was in a good position to clear.
With their first foray into Rijeka territory, Hayes set Aberdeen free and created a three on two after dispossessing Samardzic inside his own half but his pass was just behind McGinn and the move broke down. In the ninth minute, the Dons were very fortunate not to go behind when Tomasov looked to have a tap in from six yards only to fire the ball against the post. The left-back Leovac had made a great run to cross and Tomasov should have scored. The winger tried to redeem himself just moments later and was unfortunate to see a curling free-kick from 25 yards head just wide of the post. Holding midfielder Radosevic was next to try his luck from long range and Ward did well to hold onto his powerful strike. With less than 15 minutes played, the Dons were yet to settle into the game, but it remained goalless. It was in the 15th minute that the Croatian keeper had his first save to make when a long throw-in from Taylor caused uncertainty in the Rijeka box. Vargic fumbled but there was no red shirt to capitalise. From there, the home side went straight up the other end with Balaj testing Ward again with another powerful strike after being played in by Sharbini. The home side won a corner in the 19th minute which was played to the near post and flicked towards goal by Lima, but Ward was in a good position to hold the ball. His handling was superb all night.
In the 24th minute came an historic moment - a water break was called by the referee, offering both sides an opportunity to get some much needed water into the system. This was the first time it had happened officially in any competitive Aberdeen game. Despite the match kicking-off at 9pm, the temperature exceeded 30 degrees and the Dons would no doubt have enjoyed the break more having seen much less of the ball than Rijeka in the opening stages. The break certainly seemed to make a difference, with Rijeka still enjoying the bulk of the possession but being unable to create any clearcut chances. With about half an hour gone, the manager made a slight tactical change that saw McGinn and Pawlett move into more central areas. The Dons forced a corner in the 37th minute after a good cross from Logan but a soft foul was given in the box and the pressure taken off the Croatians. The visitors didn't have to wait too long until Hayes forced another corner and this time McGinn's delivery found Considine free in the box to put a thumping header into the back of the net and give the Dons a vital away goal in the 39th minute. It was a very well worked corner that pulled the defenders out of position and Andy timed his leap perfectly. Rijeka tried to hit back immediately but Ward was out off his line to claim a cross ball confidently, not for the first time in the match. Just a minute before half-time, it looked like the Dons had doubled the lead when Hayes surged down the line and delivered another great cross for Pawlett to head home, but unfortunately the linesman had his flag up to deny Aberdeen a wonderful goal. Nevertheless Aberdeen went in a goal in front at half-time after a very disciplined first half performance.

Rijeka made a change at half-time bringing on Kvrzic for Tomasov who had spurned a couple of great chances during his 45 minutes on the pitch. Sharbini was arguably the most creative player in the home side but was doing himself no favours by going down very softly on a couple of occasions, though no card was produced. In the 52nd minute, the Dons were in dreamland. An instinctive early cross from Logan was met by Peter Pawlett and he produced an excellent diving header to beat the keeper and send the Dons two goals in front.
Ward then had to keep an eye on another powerful long range effort, this time from the right-back Tomecak, but the keeper was equal to it, producing another confident save. The left-back Leovac was handed the first yellow card of the game for leaving an arm on Goodwillie who had made a nuisance of himself all night. David ran his socks off to give his teammates an outlet. The home side then made another change with Bejak replacing Radosevic before an excellent run from Logan produced a free-kick 20 yards from goal in the 57th minute. Hayes tried to catch the keeper out at the near post but fired just wide. The Dons made a change of their own in the 64th minute when Pawlett was replaced by Flood after putting in a great shift, supporting Goodwillie in attack. Goodwillie was at it again to draw Leskovic into making a rash challenge and so got his side up the pitch. The defender received a yellow card for his efforts. In the 69th minute, Aberdeen made their second change when McGinn was replaced by McLean. The former St Mirren man was now handed the task of supporting Goodwillie alongside Flood.
With 20 minutes left to play, there was no doubt that Derek McInnes had got his tactics spot on and these substitutions looked to be just what the Dons needed, providing plenty of energy from middle to front. Despite being under no pressure at all the Rijeka keeper Vargic chose to punch a free-kick from deep and at this point in the match the Croatians looked far from convincing all over the park. Another defensive lapse allowed the Dons in again as Logan pounced on a sloppy clearance to play in Goodwillie who calmly found McLean 12 yards from goal. He smashed the ball into the back of the net to make it 3-0 after 75 minutes.
It has to be said that the defensive error was forced after Goodwillie chased yet another ball that seemed to be a lost cause - this may have been the striker's best performance in a Dons shirt despite not getting on the score sheet. Rijeka were still being roared on by the 'Armada' behind the goal but the defence were standing strong with Taylor, Quinn and Considine immense, while anything that did find its way beyond them was being held by the impressively commanding Ward. The home side had run out of ideas and were forced to launch long balls into the Dons' area. However Ward was called into action again, and the keeper produced a spectacular save at point blank range to deny Balaj in the 82nd minute before Jack made a great intervention to prevent a rebound strike on goal. Goodwillie was then given a well-deserved standing ovation from the travelling supporters when he was replaced in the 83rd minute by Rooney. With a couple of minutes to go, an announcement over the tannoy system advised the travelling supporters that they would have to wait behind after the match. The announcer encouraged the supporters to 'enjoy' the wait and for the Red Army it was clear that the party had started early with every stray pass and cross from Rijeka being greeted with a cheer.
Shortly after four minutes of additional time were signalled, Ward had to produce a sharp stop to deny Sharbini and turn the ball behind for a corner. That save ensured that The Dons would take a 3-0 lead into the home leg at Pittodrie when the two sides meet again.
N.B. There were two programmes issued for the match - one in Croatian, the other in English. Nice touch but they were quite hard to find on the day.
HNK Rijeka Teamsheet
Ivan Vargic, Ivan Tomecak, Marin Leovac, Marko Leskovic, Miral Samardzic, Josip Radosevic, Filip Bradaric, Marin Tomasov, Mois├ęs, Anas Sharbini, Bekim Balaj,

Bookings:  Leovac,   Leskovic
Aberdeen Teamsheet
Ward, Logan, Shinnie, Taylor, Considine, Quinn, Hayes, Pawlett (Flood 64), Goodwillie (Rooney 83), Jack, McGinn (McLean 69).
Attendance: 10,275
Venue: Stadion Kantrida, Rijeka, Croatia
Referee: Amaury Delerue, France
Next Match
10 Jul 2024 / 19:00 / Balmoor Stadium, Peterhead