Apollon Limassol 2 - 0 Aberdeen: Dons wilt in Cyprus heat

Aberdeen exited the Europa League at the third qualifying round for the fourth year in a row as they slumped to a poor defeat in Cyprus

Kenny McLean missed a glorious chance following a heavy touch when one-on-one with the keeper. Picture: SNS
Kenny McLean missed a glorious chance following a heavy touch when one-on-one with the keeper. Picture: SNS

The Dons visibly wilted in the humid conditions and lost to a goal in each half by Andre Schembri and Emilio Zalaya, but the truth was they never did enough and created little.

The night was marred by trouble among the fans. Swiss referee Stephan Klossner threatened to take the players off the pitch because of the smokebombs, firecrackers and flares that spread smoke all over the pitch.

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There were also ugly clashes among the 700 Aberdeen fans and local stewards after the full-time whistle which threatened to turn very nasty.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes made one change from the team that edged out Apollon last week when Jayden Stockley replaced Nicky Maynard up front. It was the same team that triumphed 2-0 in Bosnia against Siroki Brijeg. Adam Rooney didn’t travel after his thigh injury.

Temperatures had “cooled” to around the mid-30s by kick-off, but it was far more humid than in Bosnia in the previous round.

Aberdeen were looking very comfortable early on, so it came as a huge surprise when the Cypriots took the lead with their first attack in the 17th minute. Greg Stewart was skinned down the Aberdeen right by Jander, Anton Maglica controlled his cross and dragged it wide, taking keeper Joe Lewis out of his goal. He cut the ball back to the lurking Andre Schembri, who clipped the ball into the net.

Aberdeen were stung, and Ryan Christie’s clever free-kick from 25 yards almost caught out Apollon keeper Bruno Vale at his near post.

Jayden Stockley picked up his seemingly obligatory yellow card for flailing arms on Charalambos Kyriakou, although it did look harsh and he was quickly followed into the book by Christie and Anthony O’Connor as the game became increasingly edgy and scrappy with five first-half bookings – exactly what the home side wanted.

The second half was a few minutes old when referee Klossner suspended the game temporarily because of a massive smoke bomb let off by the home fans that enveloped half the pitch. Soon after, another flare came down into Joe Lewis’ goal.

Klossner spoke to club officials, telling them to sort out their fans or he would take the players off the pitch.

Aberdeen again caused their own problems and presented Apollon with another two-against-one situation which they again wasted with a poor final pass.

The Scots were looking increasingly ragged and seemed to be visibly wilting in the heat and Antonio Jakolis was denied by a decent save by Lewis as Apollon took command.

But the Dons missed a glorious chance to level with 20 minutes left when sub Maynard played a delicious pass which finally split the Apollon defence. Kenny McLean had just the keeper to beat, but his heavy first touch took him wide of the goal and when he went round the keeper, the angle was too acute for a shot and his cutback was cleared by Valentin Roberge.

Then Mackay-Steven saw Vale block his effort at the far post from a deep Shay Logan cross as a sense of urgency at last hit the Dons.

It was all or nothing now for the Scots and a free-kick by sub Greg Tansey caused panic in the home box, after Considine just failed to get a touch on a Maynard header.

Apollon doubled their advantage with four minutes left when sub Emilio Zelaya volleyed in after Lewis had tipped a shot by Marios Stylianou on to his bar and Tansey’s header went straight to the Apollon sub who returned it in some style.

Even the six minutes of injury time couldn’t save Aberdeen and a weak McLean header deep into added time straight at the keeper was their last hope.