Aberdeen 3 - 1 CS Fola Esch: Injury-time double delights Dons

Shay Logan scores the opening goal in Aberdeens 3-1 Uefa Europa League first qualifying round, first leg match against Fola Esch. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Shay Logan scores the opening goal in Aberdeens 3-1 Uefa Europa League first qualifying round, first leg match against Fola Esch. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty

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Derek McInnes warned in the build-up to this tie that their unknown and unglamorous opponents from Luxembourg would be no pushovers and so it proved as it took a controversial goal two minutes into stoppage time to edge the Dons into a first-leg lead.

Niall McGinn, who until last weekend was still on Euro 2016 duty with Northern Ireland, proved how wise it was for his manager to deny the player a holiday and press him straight into action in this Europa League qualifier.

It was his shot which finally broke the stubborn resistance of the CS Fola Esch players, although they were furious that Danish assistant referee Dennis Rasmussen had originally flagged it offside before 
changing his mind.

Then, in the last of seven minutes of added-on time, a silly handball in their own penalty area allowed Adam Rooney to mark his comeback from injury with a goal that surely put the result of the tie beyond doubt.

Goalkeeper Joe Lewis and striker Jayden Stockley made their competitive debuts in the tie but manager McInnes went with a largely tried and tested selection which included Niall McGinn in his usual berth wide on the right.

It may have been just a few days since the winger suffered the disappointment of defeat against Wales in the last 16 of Euro 2016 but the Northern Ireland international was as sprightly as ever early on.

As was Jonny Hayes on the other side, who was much easier to spot when weaving his way deep into the penalty area in the opening minutes, having spent part of his short summer break bleaching his hair blond.

The Aberdeen manager’s hair might have gone grey had the visitors had a bit more luck with a superb counterattack after just five minutes after Mehdi Kirch pinched possession off Kenny McLean deep in his own half.

The left back burst forward before sliding a pass into the path of the supporting Stefano Bensi, who bent the ball round Lewis only to see it bounce clear off the former Cardiff City man’s left-hand post.

CS Fola certainly looked composed and technically competent in possession, limiting Aberdeen to a few half chances until the 23rd minute, when the aerial threat that Stockley’s recent arrival has added nearly brought an opener.

Shay Logan swept over a cross and Stockley soared to guide a header back to Ryan Jack, who was denied a goal by Julien Klein’s desperate block, although the impetus that the chance gave the home side threatened better to come.

Ash Taylor nearly provided it with a powerful header just wide from a Hayes corner on the 30-minute mark and, as the half progressed, the 
Luxembourgers found it more and more difficult to cope with their opponents’ pace and width.

McGinn tested Thomas Hym with a shot, Hayes’ trickery on the flanks won a series of free kicks in dangerous areas and Stockley lurked menacingly throughout the first half but CS Fola defended doggedly with their two banks of four.

That resistance would have crumbled within two minutes of the restart had it not been for a quite brilliant instinctive diving save that somehow saw Hym claw out what looked 
like a certain headed goal for Taylor.

That stemmed from a McGinn corner and the same player forced the goalkeeper into another equally brilliant block to keep out his 
20-yard free kick shortly after Stockley had seen a shot of his own cleared off the line.

Then, cometh the hour, cometh the man as Adam Rooney was introduced with exactly that amount of time gone – and he would have scored with his first 
intervention had it not been for another great block by the goalkeeper.

CS Fola’s outfield players looked exhausted by then, incapable of breaking out of their final third, never mind getting beyond the halfway line and it really was only a matter of time before their luck finally ran out. Not before Rooney suffered the embarrassment of turning a 
Hayes shot against the post from point-blank range.

But there was an inevitability about Logan’s goal in 66 minutes as it resulted from the chaos caused by the latest McGinn corner.

What was unexpected was CS Fola’s response as they collectively found a second wind, Emmanuel Franciose showed some sublime skill in the opposition penalty area to set up captain Klein for an unlikely leveller.

Lewis was then forced into his first serious save of the night to prevent things getting even worse for Aberdeen before McInnes and his players were able to get the win they deserved but struggled to clinch until injury time.

ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan, Taylor, Considine, Shinnie, Jack, Flood (Rooney 60), McGinn, McLean, Hayes, Stockley. Subs not used: Alexander, Reynolds, Smith, O’Connor, Pawlett, Wright.

FLORA ESCH: Hym, Martino, Bernard (Sacras 69), Muharemovic, Dallevedove, Franciose, Hadji, Laterza (Rodrigues 66), Kirch (Mahmutovic 81), Bensi, Klein. Subs not used: Cabral, Lopes, Camerling, Bechtold.

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