ABERDEEN destroyed an FK Daugava side who seemed intent on literally trying to kick their opponents out of the Europa League qualifying campaign.
Scorers: Aberdeen - Logan (33) McGinn (49) Rooney (52 pen, 90) Hayes (73)
The brutal Baltic state side had seven players booked, two red carded and one of their coaches sent to the stand by French referee Nicolas Rainville.
It was a disgraceful display by the Latvians on their first appearance in continental competition and one they will remember for all the wrong reasons.
Peter Pawlett in particular was the victim of some dreadful challenges and was forced to limp off with an ankle injury early in the second half.
Admirably, Aberdeen kept their cool throughout and responded with a professional dismantling of their fractious opponents.
They will have to go through the formality of the second leg but realistically they can start preparing for the second round against Dutch side Groningen.
The only worry for manager Derek McInnes will be the risk of injury to players in Riga before then if FK Daugava repeat this shocking performance in the return.
Of course, McInnes is determined to build on the success of his first season in charge and prove that Aberdeen really are on the way back to a position of respectability after years of underachievement.
A first trophy in 19 years and their highest league finish in nearly as long pretty much proved that on the domestic scene. This was a start of redeeming their reputation in Europe.
After all, the Dons’ last venture into continental competition came five years ago and ended with the only Scottish team to win two European trophies suffering their worst ever aggregate defeat.
That was against Sigma Olomouc of the Czech Republic but for Aberdeen supporters of a certain age in attendance, it was the trauma of the last time they met Latvian opponents that was uppermost in their thoughts prior to kick-off.
Defeat on away goals by
Skonto Riga 20 years ago was the beginning of the end of Willie Miller’s time as manager as the team battled relegation for the rest of that campaign.
A lack of match sharpness playing before the World Cup quarter-finals had been played was the main fear against a team halfway through their season.
If anything, it was the Latvian side who looked deficient in that department as they knocked the ball around nicely at times but look chronically short of pace.
That’s not something you could say about Peter Pawlett who, as early as the fourth minute, burst forward from halfway to deliver a cross from near the left bye-line that Shay Logan failed to turn in.
Aberdeen pulled the visiting defence all over the place with their superior movement both on and off the ball and an early goal looked inevitable. The only surprise was that Barry Robson didn’t provide it in 15 minutes after Valdemar Borovskij needlessly pushed Adam Rooney when the striker was getting nowhere near the former Celtic midfielder’s cross.
Robson took the resulting penalty but goalkeeper Emilijus Zubas saved low to his left and reacted quickly to keep out Rooney’s attempt from the rebound.
Borovskij was booked for his part in the incident and team-mates Vitalijs Zils and Emils Knapsis quickly joined him as the Daugava players resorted to robust methods to keep the home side at bay.
That was hardly surprising as Aberdeen kept cutting them apart almost at will with the Latvian goal leading a charmed life, at least until 33 minutes.
Niall McGinn forced Zubas into another good save from a 25-yard free kick while Rooney and Robson both failed to take advantage of a sublime diagonal cross by Ryan Jack before Logan showed them the way.
It was a full-back combination as Jonny Hayes got down the left and hoisted over a cross that seemed to mesmerise the Daugava backline as Logan stole in to head home at the back post.
The second half turned into a procession of bookings for the Latvians and thankfully goals through Aberdeen’s patient, poised response to intimidation.
Within four minutes of the restart, Niall McGinn put the result beyond doubt forcing Ryan Jack’s cross at the second attempt.
Two minutes later, Aberdeen had their second penalty of the night after Edijs Joksts needlessly handled in the box and this time Rooney stepped up to make no mistake.
The inevitable then happened as first Zils, then Aurimas Kucys, picked up second bookings leaving the visitors with just nine men on the park.
Hayes then joined in the scoring in 73 minutes after Robson and Rooney created for the Irishman to volley in the fourth goal and end all doubt about qualification.
Just for good measure, Rooney added a fifth in stoppage time to complete a satisfying win for McInnes in his first European game as a manager.
Aberdeen: Langfield, Logan, Anderson, Reynolds, Flood, Rooney, McGinn, Hayes, Robson, Pawlett, Jack. Subs: Brown, Taylor, Considine, Smith, Low, McManus, Wright.
Daugava Riga: Zubas, Borovskij, Ribokas, Tomkevicius, Mendy, Kucys, Zils, Flora, Joksts, Knapsis, Savenas. Subs: Blanks, Markevicius, Abdelaziz, Krumins, Kacanovs, Apins, Vitolniecks.