Aberdeen has withdrawn from the Europa Conference League as their 14-year wait to reach a group stage continues.
It was a hugely disappointing night for Stephen Glass and his men as they slipped through the hands of the elegant Qarabag.
The Azerbaijani side, leading 1-0 in the first leg in Baku, managed to end the tie with a brace in 10 minutes in the first half before adding a third in the second half.
Lewis Ferguson scored a consolation on the spot in added time, but the game was long over by that point.
Glass had urged his players to create “something special” and with the Red Army behind them, it didn’t seem beyond them to reverse a one-goal deficit in the first leg.
But move quickly just 20 minutes into the game and it was truly Mission Impossible as the Dons found themselves two quick goals behind Qarabag.
Aberdeen had also started quite brilliantly and a header from Christian Ramirez intended for Jonny Hayes was deflected before reaching the Irishman.
But with just seven minutes on the clock, it was the visitors who took the lead and it was no surprise that Abdallah Zoubir was involved.
The Frenchman got past the Dons defense and fed Toral Bayramov who sent a brilliant angled shot at Joe Lewis.
Qarabag was then about to add a second when Kady simply failed to hit a low ball through Abbas Huseynov’s six-yard box.
But they were luckier next time around as Ross McCrorie was punished for reckless play as he offered possession to the Azerbaijani team.
They jumped on the mistake and Zoubir got involved again as he ran through the park before slipping through a ball for Kady to provide the finish, though there was more than a hint of off. -Game.
At this point the fear was that the roof would collapse on Aberdeen and Scott Brown perfectly timed a tackle to turn Zoubir down again.
But there was no stopping for the Frenchman as he conceded the third – no more than his game deserved – as the Dons again gave the ball away and showed excellent close control before coming home. .
The Dons got late consolation when Calvin Ramsay suffered a foul, but there was a delay in the hold as a fan entered the pitch.
He remains undisputed with the JET required to get him out – a UEFA fine could now be imposed on the club – but despite that, Ferguson was right on the spot.
Here are three talking points from Pittodria
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From Stranraer to fame
Pat Fenlon is not well remembered from his tenure at Hibs and there have been a lot of failed signings.
Abdellah Zoubir probably didn’t leave a big impression on the Easter Road faithful either during his short loan spell under the Irishman.
But the Frenchman has shown he has certainly turned into a good player as the winger tormented the Dons.
To be fair, Zoubir was only 21 when he signed up for Leith on loan from Istres and his only goal was a League Cup win over Stranraer at home.
He made 16 appearances under Fenlon and then played in Romania before returning to France with Lens then Qarabag.
Aberdeen couldn’t face him and he caused all kinds of trouble for the defense with one hand in the first two goals before scoring the third himself.
Reinforcements for Ramirez
American leader Christian Ramirez made a dazzling start to his career at Pittodria, scoring four goals in his first five games.
But the former Houston Dynamo player now has five without finding the net as he goes through a mini drought.
The USA international needed a little help and at halftime Stephen Glass gave it to him with the introduction of JET.
And the announcement of the signing of Marley Watkins, who had previously been on loan at Pittodrie, ahead of kick-off will have fans excited.
Ramirez is now hoping the ex-Inverness man can help bring out the best in him with JET, although that wasn’t enough for the tie.
Half full glass
It was bitterly disappointing as Aberdeen turned 14 and counting since they last reached the group stage in European competition.
And after a 1-0 defeat in Baku, there was every reason to believe they could have turned things around in Pittodria.
They didn’t start badly, but that quick first-half double was a hammer blow and effectively killed their hopes.
However, there is no doubt that they were up against a quality squad with a decent pedigree at this level in Europe.
This season will be their eighth in a row in the group stage of UEFA competitions, including the Champions League just three years ago, when they held Atletico Madrid in check.
It was a tough draw and it showed how well they played away.