Aberdeen came from two goals down to earn a sensational draw against Swedish champions Hacken in the Europa League play-off and reignite their chances of reaching the group stages.
Two goals in four minutes inside the final quarter from the likely source of Bojan Miovski and the less-likely one of Nicky Devlin sent the travelling fans from dejection to delirium.
It turned the tie for Aberdeen, who had been cut open on the counter late in the first half with Tunisia international Amor Layouni beating Kelle Roos to round off a magnificent move.
The Premiership side were much improved after the interval and appeared in the ascendancy before Jack MacKenzie was punished for a handball inside the box, with Ibrahim Sadiq coolly dispatching the penalty.
But the efforts of Barry Robson’s gutsy side were eventually rewarded and could have been even more so had debutant Jamie McGrath’s late effort not been ruled out, once Hacken were down to ten men as Johan Hammar received his second yellow.
Instead, the tie is delicately poised going into the second leg at Pittodrie next Thursday (19:45 BST).
On their return to the city that hosted the greatest night in their history four decades ago, when they beat Real Madrid to win the Cup Winners’ Cup, Robson’s side appeared to take spirit from that team.
Much was made pre-match of the free-flowing nature of this Hacken side, and it was evident that goals were likely. Not all for the hosts, though, as Aberdeen had sightings of their own through Dante Polvara and Duk before Layouni struck.
Just prior to Miovski’s thundering strike, he squandered a glorious header, but that was soon put to the back of the mind.
The North Macedonia international promptly set-up Devlin, who delightfully dinked a potentially priceless equaliser beyond Peter Abrahamsson to put Aberdeen back in contention for a first Europa League group tilt in 16 years.
Player of the match – Bojan Miovski
Aberdeen dig deep to deliver hope – analysis
A trip back to Gothenburg is something of a pilgrimage for Aberdeen supporters, so they’d never say it wasn’t a worthwhile trip. But Robson’s group made sure it was another trip to Sweden that will live in the memory for a while, at least.
The tenacity shown in the second half, when the heads could have easily dropped, is much more admirable than any trick or flick tried. A different side to Aberdeen was revealed, one that can dig deep and will fight for each other.
Should the job been done at home next week, that is a quality they will need to build on week in, week out.
The affluence of endeavour that stayed with the side up until Graeme Shinnie’s 100th-minute shot is further evidence this side will not go down without a fight. Quite the comeback, with signings James McGarry and McGrath at the heart of it.
What they said
Aberdeen manager Barry Robson: “We could have scored five or six goals tonight, against a really good side.
“I’m frustrated because we should have come away with a win, but what a brilliant comeback. I always felt that was in us.
“I don’t think [the comeback] changes anything. “You can see where we’re trying to get to as a team. We’re just getting going, but I tell you what, we look a handful.
“What a night for the fans. I said to the players to take them with you, because they will get you points throughout the season.”
Both sides are in action on Sunday, 27 August before they reconvene at Pittodrie next Thursday. Aberdeen travel to take on St Mirren, while Hacken face IFK Goteborg away from home.
- 13SandbergSubstituted forTotlandat 84′minutes
- 3HammarBooked at 90mins
- 12Lunddal FridrikssonSubstituted forLaursenat 84′minutes
- 27AmanéSubstituted forAbdulrazakat 63′minutes
- 19HrsticSubstituted forYoussefat 63′minutes
- 24LayouniSubstituted forTebo Uchennaat 90+1′minutes
- 4Tebo Uchenna
- 33RubezicBooked at 17mins
- 20MorrisSubstituted forMacDonaldat 63′minutes
- 23DuncanSubstituted forMcGarryat 70′minutes
- 21PolvaraBooked at 26minsSubstituted forMcGrathat 70′minutes
- 11Henriques de Barros LopesSubstituted forSoklerat 80′minutes
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