ABERDEEN were given a football lesson this evening in Spain as a classy Real Sociedad side proved far too good for the Pittodrie men.
Scorers: Real Sociedad: Zurutuza, 53, Canales, 68
Second half goals from David Zurutuza and sub Sergio Canales means the Dons face an enormous task in next week’s Europa League second leg because the mere scoreline doesn’t illustrate the enormous difference in class between the Scots and their La Liga opponents.
In truth, Aberdeen will be delighted to leave the Basque region with only a two-goal defeicit because they were comprehensively outclassed by Jagoba Arrasate’s impressive side in San Sebastian last night.
The home side were perhaps rusty since they were playing their first competitive fixture, but they could and should have been out of sight had they taken some of their many chances. Aberdeen failed to even come close to laying a glove on Sociedad. In the end it was damage limitation for the Dons, who were roared on by 500 fans in the north west of Spain.
Derek McInnes opted to replace Andrew Considine wirth the experience of Barry Robson, which was the only change from the side that won in Groningen last week.
That meant Jonny Hayes dropped back to his left back role and he had plenty of possession in the opening period with the Scots seeing plenty of the ball in an encouraging start, with the home side understandably not quite up to the speed since the La Liga season is still over three weeks away.
It took them a good 15 minutes to mount their first real attack on the Dons goal and Ryan Jack charged down a Xabi Prieto volley. New £8 million signing Alfred Finnbogason was making his bow and he almost marked it with a debut goal when he was inexplicably left free from a corner, but arrowed his header wide.
Adam Rooney was then shown a yellow card by the German ref after a clash with Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez. And Niall McGinn almost caused Aberdeen unnecessary anxiety when he needlessly gave the ball away to home skipper Prieto and his 20 yard effort was desperately close with Jamie Langfield beaten.
Sociedad now had a firm grip on proceedings and Aberdeen were fortunate to get away with what looked like a more than decent penalty shout when Willo Flood launched a clumsy challenge on Finnbogason in the box. Then Markel Bergara fizzed a long range effort just over with Aberdeen well and truly on the ropes.
Finnbogason was getting closer though and he should have done better ten minutes from half time when he volleyed Chori Castro’s headed knockdown over the bar under pressure from Dons captain Russell Anderson.
They missed an even bigger sitter a few minutes later when Ruben Pardo ballooned a shot over from just ten yards out after Prieto’s excellent cutback.
A Mark Reynolds volley over from a Hayes free kick just before the interval was a rare respite as the Pittodrie side somehow made it to the break without conceding.
For all Sociedad’s possession and shots from distance, it actually took them 50 minutes to test Langfield when Finnbogason had a speculative effort from an acute angle.
But Aberdeen didn’t take the warning and the Spaniards took a deserved 53rd minute lead. Josepa Zaldúa nutmegged Hayes on the edge of the box and although Shay Logan blocked Finnbogason’s shot from the cutback, he only succeeded in teeing up Zurutuza who scooped the ball high into the net from close range.
If Aberdeen hoped the goal would make Real take their foot off the gas, they were sadly mistaken. In fact, if anything, it only increased their confidence. The back-heels and flicks started and the visitors were just desperate for a way to somehow stem the tide of attacks. The introduction of Considine for the completely anonymous Peter Pawlett was an indication at how McInnes was treating this,
Bergara cracked a 65th minute shot against the bar after Robson lost possession, forcing a frank exchange of views among the beleaguered Dons team. Considine then carelessly gave the ball to sun Sergio Canales who tested Langfield with an angled drive.
The second goal was inevitable and it was sub Canales who showed his class with a 68th minute goal just three minutes after he came on. He thudded a low 25 yard effort that flew into Langfield’s net with such force that it gave the veteran Dons keeper no chance.
McInnes threw on David Goodwillie for the last 20 minutes hoping for at least a glimpse of an away goal and they were at last presented with an opening with 14 minutes left when they won a free kick but sub Nicky Low hit the wall from a promising position.
Inigo Martinez thumped a header against the underside of the bar as Sociedad tried to get a third goal that would surely end all hopes of a second leg comeback, but despite several more near misses, the home side settled for their two-goal advantage.
Real Sociedad: Zubikarai; De la Bella, Elustondo, Inigo, Zaldua; Prieto (Agirretxe 75), Bergara, Pardo (Granero 83), Zurutuza; Castro (Canales 65), Finnbogason. Subs not used: Bardaji, Gonzalez, Gaztanaga, Pablo.
Aberdeen: Langfield; Logan, Anderson, Reynolds, Hayes; Flood, Jack; Robson (Low 71), Pawlett (Considine 62), McGinn; Rooney (Goodwillie 71). Subs not used: Brown, Taylor, Smith, Murray.