A Europa League play-off round tie against potentially glamorous opposition is now just 90 minutes away for Aberdeen if they can secure a result in Cyprus next week.
Derek McInnes knows there’s still much work to accomplish. But the Pittodrie manager is pleased his side have not left themselves with as much to do as the last round, when they headed to Bosnia on the back of a 1-1 draw with NK Siroki Brijeg.
Last night’s 2-1 win over Apollon Limassol, secured by Graeme Shinnie’s fine 79th-minute strike, means hopes are high in Aberdeen ahead of next week’s trip to Larnaca.
“I am confident we can get a result,” said McInnes. “It will be tricky over there. They are a very good side and we have to respect their qualities but we have to get the balance right between attacking and defending in Cyprus.
“They are more than decent,” he added. “They are a very good side.
“But we are capable – a lot of our best results have come away from home in Europe. We will go to Cyprus to score a goal – we are not going there to defend a 2-1 lead.”
McInnes praised the contribution of Shinnie, who shook off the disappointment of a first-minute booking to emerge as the matchwinner with a searing left-foot drive.
Apollon Limassol had Argentine midfielder Esteban Sachetti sent off after 70 minutes for a second bookable offence after a clash with Ryan Christie, who had scored Aberdeen’s opener with a header after four minutes.
The visitors equalised through a well-worked Jander goal just before the hour mark.
“What a strike from Shinnie,” said McInnes. “There could not be any more love from our supporters towards him, he plays exactly how supporters want players to play. But when he produces quality like that it shows just how good a player he is.”
McInnes also paid tribute to the fans at a sold-out Pittodrie as more than 20,000 watched last night’s game. He said: “When you see an atmosphere like that, you just want to see it more. They were fantastic – ten out of ten.”
McInnes is hopeful that last season’s top scorer Adam Rooney, who missed last night’s match with a hamstring injury, should be on the plane to Cyprus next week.
Apollon Limassol head coach Sofronis Avgousti, who was sent off for over-celebrating his side’s equaliser by Brazilian Jander, insisted it would have been a different story had his side finished with eleven men.
“It is hopefully different next week in Larnaca,” he said. “The fans will push the team.”
On the sending off, he said: “I believe that, if it was eleven versus eleven, we would win. It was at a time when we were putting the most pressure on.
“He [Sachetti] is a good player, we missed him.”