Although Aberdeen scored the goal they needed they could not keep the clean sheet against Kairat Almaty that would have secured their place in the Europa League play-off round and the 1-1 draw meant the Dons bowed out 3-2 on aggregate.
Kairat were first to strike when Gerard Gohou scored on the hour mark. Although Kenny McLean equalised on the night after 85 minutes, the goal that would have taken the tie into extra-time remained beyond Aberdeen. Kairat goalkeeper Vladimir Plotnikov was forced to make a finger-tip save in time added on to prevent substitute Paul Quinn’s header taking the tie into an extra 30 minutes.
McInnes was disappointed but not in the efforts expended by his players, who are now left to concentrate on their domestic ambitions. “Until someone says to me at the back end of the season – when hopefully we have a trophy in our hands – that going out of Europe was the best thing that could have happened to us, it is going to feel disappointing,” said the manager.
“I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of effort,” he said. “The determination of the team was there for everyone to see. The fact 20,000 stayed to a man at the end to applaud them was recognition of the players’ efforts. We lacked a bit of quality in the final third at times but for effort and even intelligence of our play, I thought it was top quality.
“It was clear we were hell bent on getting on top of them. The intensity of our play was excellent. Half-time came at a good time for them [Kairat]. For a team well into their own campaign, I felt they were flagging. They had a few bookings and a few lazy challenges and were finding it difficult to cope.”
McInnes revealed he had set up his team with the aim of getting an early goal. But try as they might, it wouldn’t come. Kairat drew first blood and thought they conceded an equaliser, they are the ones who are included in today’s play-off round draw. Although McInnes congratulated them on their achievement, he was frustrated by this outcome.
“I thought we were better than them,” he said. “I thought we would get through this tie. To put so much effort into that first half and not get a goal was a bit of a blow.” Almaty coach Vladimir Weiss admitted his heart was in his mouth at the end. “That was the longest ten minutes of my life,” he said. “Aberdeen are a good strong team and they caused problems in the air. My goalkeeper was our hero.
“It was a great game and the supporters created a big atmosphere. I thank the supporters for a wonderful game. This is a huge moment for our club and it is a night I will remember for a long time. Hopefully we can get a good draw and maybe we have a chance to get to the group stages.
“It was always going to be difficult in Scotland because although we are better technically, Aberdeen are better physically.
“We felt we needed to score a second goal but I am delighted with the result against a club with the great history created by Sir Alex Ferguson.”