The adventure of the Europa Conference League ends abruptly in Pittodria

THEY had lost the first leg on shady ground – but last night Aberdeen was played out of the park.

The Dons missed a first Euro group stage for 14 years and a £ 2.5million bonus.

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Qarabag players celebrateCredit: PA

But they didn’t deserve to progress after facing a team from Qarabag that was just too good.

The Azerbaijani side strengthened their lead in the first half to 1-0 thanks to goals from Tural Bayramov and Kady in the first half.

Then, as Aberdeen pushed the numbers after the break, Abdellah Zoubir scored a decisive third goal as Lewis Ferguson’s kick in added time was far too little too late.

But Qarabag’s technique, passing and balancing on the ball – not to mention his ability to find pockets of space and finish – meant they fully deserved their place in Friday’s Europa League draw. .


The Verdict – By Alan Potts

JOE LEWIS: Could not do anything to stop any of Qarabag’s objectives. Produced a superb point blank 2-0 save to deny Sheydaev and keep his team with a fighting chance 6

CALVIN RAMSAY: The youngster plays with real maturity. Lost his man to the opener but kept hooking up and didn’t enter his shell. Won the late penalty 5

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ROSS MCCRORIE: He gave the ball on the cheap for the second goal which left his team with a mountain to climb. Although he recovered and always sought to take the ball 5

DECLAN GALLAGHER: I continued to speak to the young trio alongside them in defense as they were under siege, especially in the first half. It was a difficult change as the rear guard was exposed 5

JACK MACKENZIE: The rookie was unable to advance as his team was stranded for long periods of time. Took out his frustrations on Romero and was rightly reserved. Will undoubtedly learn from experience 5

FUNSO OJO: Was used on the left but changed sides this time. This season’s talisman was most likely to create something. He tried everything but it was not enough. Reserve 6

LEWIS FERGUSON: The new Scottish boy never gave up and had to cover every patch of grass. He confidently stepped up to take the late kick. Another reserved by a picky official 6

SCOTT BROWN: The Euro veteran had to rally the troops after suffering a nightmarish departure. He looked to show his authority on the game, but the first half was a difficult change. Reserve 6

TEDDY JENKS: It was a night the Brighton lender will want to forget. The game passed him and it was no surprise to see him stay indoors in the meantime 4

JONNY HAYES: Tried using his pace to disturb visitors but spent most of the first half defending. He almost handed Dons a lifeline, but his shot was saved well. Replaced 5

CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ: American worked on his socks but was sometimes too isolated on his own. Was after a few tough tackles but never gave up. Replaced 6

SUBSCRIBERS: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (4) Substituted Jenks at halftime and looked to bend over backwards, but by then it was too little, too late. Niall McGinn (2) We for the last 15 minutes to tire Hayes but had no impact. Dean Campbell (2) Towards the end for Ramirez.


Christian Ramirez and Lewis Ferguson seem disappointed

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Christian Ramirez and Lewis Ferguson seem disappointedCredit: PA

For the Dons, it was a hard lesson in a crowded Pittodria as they barely tested visiting goalkeeper Shakhrudin Magomedaliyev and instead found themselves too often chosen by visitors.

Former loan forward Marley Watkins had returned to the club with a permanent contract earlier today – and how boss Stephen Glass must have wished he could call on him.

Andy Considine had broken his crusader on that horror surface in Baku – and they also missed the defender’s experience in the second leg.

The terrible turf – if it could be called turf – meant it was hard to judge how good Qarabag was.

Dons players held Considine jersey ahead of the match

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Dons players held Considine jersey ahead of the matchCredit: PA

It was another story on perfect Pittodrian terrain, although the Gifts didn’t really make it difficult.

But in the past seven years, Qarabag had qualified for one group stage in the Champions League and six in the Europa League.

It was never going to be an easy night for the Dons, who had not reached the group stage since Jimmy Calderwood’s 2007/08 UEFA Cup.

They had also started with a real purpose, with Calvin Ramsay at the heart of all good stuff.

At first the right-back danced down the flank, brilliantly held the ball and then sort of carved a fantastic cross. The wait Christian Ramirez was sidelined.

Moments later, at the other end, Ramsay was guiding Zoubir along the line before cutting him off and clearing him.

But with eight minutes on the clock, Qarabag took the lead on his side when Zoubir had too much room to get to the signing. He chose Bayramov who had plenty of time to get past Joe Lewis.

Jonny Hayes in action

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Jonny Hayes in actionCredit: Getty

The local crowd attempted to wake up their downcast team as cheers descended from the stands.

But they should have been further away when Abbas Huseynov passed a ball through the goal, which was perfect for the rushing Kady.

Even on the stretch, the Brazilian looked ready to pass a stuck Lewis, but he didn’t have enough and the ball went past him.

He didn’t make the same mistake in the 18th minute – but again, it was a goal the Dons could have prevented.

Ross McCrorie was in Considine’s left side position in the middle of a back four but he had already shown signs that he didn’t look too comfortable there.

When he gave the ball, Qarabag swept forward and Zoubir did the rest. His brilliant strung pass found Kady standing unmarked and he went home.

Lewis Ferguson scores the penalty

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Lewis Ferguson scores the penaltyCredit: Getty

Even without an away goal rule, the Dons suddenly seemed far away.

They struggled to create as Qarabag – with the Dons’ defense out of the way – seemed a danger every time they attacked.

Technically they were superb as they sprayed the ball on Pittodrie and controlled it with real nonchalance.

Last week’s goalscorer Jaime Romero let it fly, but Lewis held the ball as he spat in front of him. Then McCrorie allowed Ramil Sheydaev to pass him too easily but Lewis saved.

Aberdeen needed inspiration – instead, whenever they tried to break through to the front, they let themselves open from the back.

Jonny Hayes soared into the box and landed a superb cross, but the Magomedaliyev dive did well to get him back in the air and hang on.

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There were a few boos at halftime as the home team made their way into the tunnel.

Glass was always going to turn things around at the break and it wasn’t a shock to see Teddy Jenks hooked up for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

With the visitors content to protect their lead, Hayes forced a decent save from Magomedaliyev.

But as the Dons tried to get things back on track, Kady fed Zoubir who passed Ramsay and Declan Gallagher, then drilled past Lewis.

The sounds of overturned seats filled their air as some supporters made their way to the exits while others voiced their displeasure.

Ferguson scored with a generous penalty in the dying seconds after Ramsay fell under challenge from Richard Almeida.


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