How Aberdeen were downed by Qarabag-inspired Hibs flop as they fall at the last hurdle on a landmark European night

All it took was 18 despairing minutes for 14 years to become 15 since Aberdeen progressed beyond the qualifying stages of European competition as they fell to Qarabag in the Conference League play-off.

Tural Bayramov fires Qarabag ahead at Pittodrie. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Tural Bayramov fires Qarabag ahead at Pittodrie. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

It was meant to be so different. On the night the Dons played their 150th game in Europe, they were 90 minutes away from the group stages and the riches that would bring, not to mention the big nights at Pittodrie.

It had all the makings of a special evening down by the beach.

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Supporters were in fine voice before the match. A group had congregated at Castle Gate at the start of King Street, complete with a drum and expectation.

Aberdeen's wait for European progression to the group stages continues. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

That hope, that Euro dream was all but gone within the first 20 minutes as Qarabag went 2-0 up before winning 3-1 to become the latest opposition to add to an increasing list.

Real Sociedad, Kairat, Maribor, Apollon Limassol, Burnley, Rijeka and Sporting, not to forget Sigma Olomouc.

They still wait for that elusive breakthrough since defeating Dnipro back in 2007 to reach the Uefa Cup group stages.

Hibs flop stars

By the time the game kicked off, the Red Shed were in fine voice and the players responded, feeding off that energy as if hooked up to an IV of 15,533 of the Red Army.

Calvin Ramsay set the tone with real intensity.

But it was Qarabag who looked more purposeful in possession, as they did in the first-leg. Former Hibs flop Abdellah Zoubir threatened early on down the left but it was last Thursday's match winner Kady who took up a possession to get to the byline in the eighth minute and cut back for Toral Bayramov. His finish, struck so sweet, was the arrow which went through the Dons balloon.

The one thing Aberdeen did not want to happen.

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Qarabag should have doubled their lead when Kady failed to connect properly with a brilliant cross from Abbas.

It was a warning Aberdeen did not heed.

Ross McCorie gave the ball away cheaply in his own half – an affliction which ran through Stephen Glass’ team. The Azerbaijani opposition pounced with the home side all over the place. Zoubir took Joe Lewis out of the game by sliding a pass to Kady who stroked the ball home.

Game Over

Christian Ramirez had tweeted a preview of the game in the style of a retro arcade game. It said 'Press Start’. It would have helped if someone at Aberdeen had bothered to do so.

So many of the failings of the first half were on show, namely wasted possession and a lack of attacking direction.

It was a case of how many for the visitors rather than a famous comeback with Ramil Sheydayev being denied twice by Lewis as Qarabag toyed with the hosts at times.

It took until 15 minutes after the interval for Mahammadaliyev to be called into meaningful action, pushing away a Jonny Hayes effort.

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The second half was a meandering affair but Qarabag maintained that killer instinct. They weren't hungry but they could always eat and that was the case when Zoubir ran through what was essentially a wounded Aberdeen to fire past Lewis with ease and grab a deserved goal.

For the Dons, who netted through Lewis Ferguson's late penalty, the European wait continues.

Aberdeen (4-3-3) – Lewis; Ramsay, McCrorie, Gallagher, MacKenzie; Brown, Ferguson, Jenks (Emannuel-Thomas); Ojo, Hayes (McGinn), Ramirez (Campbell).

Qarabag (4-2-3-1) – Mahammadaliyev; Abbas, Medvedev, Medina, Ibrahimli; Garayev, Bayramov; Zoubir, Kady, Romero; Sheydaev.

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