How Duk came of age for Aberdeen with match-winning performance against Hearts

When Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes made his Aberdeen debut as a half-time substitute in a 5-0 Premier Sports Cup encounter with Stirling Albion there was plenty of intrigue amongst the Dons faithful.

The striker had arrived from Benfica B for a six-figure fee which meant there was excitement straight away. Duk was “miles off it fitness wise” according to manager Jim Goodwin but he mixed it physically and showed a willingness to run in behind in an all-action display. It wasn’t until nearly two months later when he was awarded with his first start, the 3-1 loss to Hibs at Easter Road where he opened the scoring with a cute header past David Marshall and showed qualities which have endeared himself to the Dons support. Yet, with Aberdeen down to ten men, it was he, not Bojan Miovski, who made way at half-time. A decision which was certainly questioned by the travelling fans.

Duk was back in the starting line-up for Aberdeen’s 2-0 win over Hearts and he laid down a strong marker across his 81 minutes on the pitch for a regular berth in the first XI. It was a coming-of-age role in an Aberdeen top as he bullied and bamboozled the Tynecastle Park defence, namely Lewis Neilson. He got the better of the young Hearts defender moments after he entered the pitch and the message may well have been ‘this is just the start’.

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The 22-year-old was thwarted twice by Craig Gordon after getting in good positions in behind and down the side of the Hearts defence. He could have won a penalty in the first half before turning into the match winner in the second. Duk displayed an alertness to get the wrong side – from a defender’s point of view – of Neilson and calmness to score. Then there was the assist. Getting the ball on the half-way line, slowing the game down, waiting for Neilson to make contact before ragdolling the centre-back, ambling forward, clearly on his last legs, and slipping in Vicente Besuijen.

Why Duk was so effective

That selflessness is an impressive quality for someone so young. He created three chances in the game with just ten passes.

Goodwin’s change to a back three was a positive one. It provided the defence with more solidity, pushed Jayden Richardson further up the pitch in a position he played for Notts County last season and allowed the manager to get Ross McCrorie, Ylber Ramadani, Conor Barron and Leighton Clarkson in the same team. The best consequence, however, was playing Duk with Miovski.

The Cape Verde international is a player who enjoys the physical side of the game, taking contact and using it to spin the defender. The partnership gets the best out of both forwards. Duk will be more likely to do the dirtier, selfless jobs, he will occupy defenders and has no issue with moving wide to get involved, dragging opposing defenders out of position. He won ten of his 14 duels and was fouled four times.

Duk put in a match-winning performance against Hearts, including setting up Vicente Besuijen for the second goal. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

He is currently averaging a goal every 90 minutes with four in ten games, while he has hit the net in both games he has started. Miovski has got the headlines so far but it is Duk who may well be Aberdeen’s most effective forward signing and he’s just getting started.

Duk opened the scoring in what was his second start for the club. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

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