A disciplined, determined display from the Dons, illuminated by two pieces of clinical finishing, saw them finally get the win they have long deserved as they bade farewell to European football for this season. Harry Kane must be relieved that his side were only playing at Old Trafford rather than Pittodrie this midweek…
The Dons made eight changes to the side that defeated Hearts last Saturday with Nicky Devlin, Richard Jensen, Jonny Hayes, Graeme Shinnie, Jamie McGrath, Ester Sokler, Leighton Clarkson all on the bench and Bojan Miovski missing out altogether. In came Angus MacDonald to skipper the side, along with Connor Barron, Duk, James McGarry, Shayden Morris, Dante Polvara, Ryan Duncan and Slobodan Rube i . Rhys Williams, Or Dadia, Finlay Marshall and Pape Guèye were added to the bench.
Eintracht Frankfurt lost 2-1 at home to PAOK in their last group game and made five changes to that team with Tuta, Pacho, Skhiri, Marmoush and Chaibi dropping out in favour of Koch, Ngankam, Hasebe, Hauge and Baum.
Kelle Roos was in early action, down to his right in the third minute to stop an Ngankam shot after good build up play from Frankfurt. Six minutes later, after going down for the second time following a slip on the pitch surround where he seemed to roll his ankle, Dina Ebimbe was replaced by Aaronson.
There was good possession from the visitors in the opening stages but the Dons kept a good shape and kept the German side very much in front of them in the early stages. They finally got in behind on 16, Ngankam onto the ball in the inside-right slot, swivelling to fire his shot across the face of goal and wide.
Two minutes later, Nkounkou tried his luck from the other side, fizzing a shot across the goal and wide courtesy of a deflection, after good work by Götze. Aberdeen were struggling to get out of their own third in the first 20 minutes, but they were preventing Frankfurt from creating any real clear-cut opportunities.
The first real pressure the Dons exerted came around the half hour, a long throw from Stefan Gartenmann causing some confusion in the Frankfurt backline, but they were able to eventually clear their lines. Something perhaps for the Dons to exploit though.
More good play on 36, stemming from patient football at the back, Barron picking his moment to play forward, Jack Milne delivering a good crossfield ball to McGarry. The visitors were ultimately able to clear, but it was more promising from Aberdeen. To counter that, Frankfurt were soon back up the pitch, good feet from Hauge creating a shooting opportunity, Roos doing well to block at his near post.
Aberdeen’s improvement earned them the lead on 41 minutes with a burst forward started and finished by Duk. Collecting the ball on halfway after a good tackle to win the ball by Polvara, his attempted pass to Duncan was blocked but he picked up the loose ball and then found Morris on the right. His cross into the six yard box was weighted to perfection, Duk having continued his run and sliding in to convert.
HALF-TIME: ABERDEEN 1 EINTRACHT FRANKFURT 0
Grahl replaced Trapp in the Frankfurt goal at the break, but there were no changes for the Dons. The visitors then crafted the first chance of the half, Hauge cutting in from the right, but his shot was wayward on 48 minutes.
A Hauge corner caused a bit of pinball three minutes later, MacDonald getting in a good block before Koch ultimately put the ball over the bar from a dozen yards.
A low Morris cross very nearly created a second goal after 53 minutes, his pass arcing through the six yard box, Baum only just putting the ball wide at the back post under pressure from Duncan. From the corner, Milne glanced his header just wide of goal.
A rapid counter-attack from Frankfurt saw Aaronson galloping forward on 55, Roos again standing up and making a good save from him as the game became far more open than in the first half. Smol i got in a powerful header at the near post from a corner four minutes later, Roos well positioned to save.
Götze made way for Frankfurt on the hour, Knauff replacing him. Sokler and Jensen became the Dons’ first changes on 62 minutes, replacing Duk and Gartenmann, the Dane having taken a whack from Baum, who stood on his foot a few minutes earlier.
Good pressing play from Polvara and Morris had Sokler on his way towards goal on 66 minutes, but trying to find a pass, he gave the ball away and set Frankfurt on the counter-attack, Rube i having to clear Ngankam’s cross. Good play down the left from the visitors then carved out an opportunity for Knauff, but his finish was tentative and Jensen cleared from off the line. Eintracht kept the pressure on, and Roos had to save with his feet from Hauge.
Devlin and McGrath became Aberdeen’s next substitutes, coming on for Milne and Morris after 71 minutes. Devlin looked as if he might have won a penalty a couple of minutes later, great persistence getting him into the box, Smol i cutting across him. Nothing given.
Never mind though, leave it to Sokler to make it 2-0 from open play moments later. A gorgeous pass from Polvara on halfway set Sokler on the run between the centre-backs and, from the edge of the box, he lifted the ball over Grahl and just under the crossbar, a clinical finish.
Frankfurt made their final switch in the aftermath of the goal, Tuta and Ferri coming on for Ngankam and Koch. McGarry then went down needing treatment, Hayes coming on for him with 12 minutes to go. Still Frankfurt were kept at arm’s length, Roos down to cut out a low cross from Nkounkou on 84 minutes. Aaronson became the night’s first booking for sliding through McGrath as we went into the final minute.
The Dons continued to keep their shape, keep Frankfurt at bay and finally the whistle went on a win in Europe, cementing third place in the group, a strong achievement against top class opposition.
2 minutes added at end of 1st half.
4 minutes added at end of 2nd half.