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Aberdeen see off Breidablik 2-1 to secure Europa Conference League play-off clash with Qarabag

Ryan Hedges was on the mark twice for Aberdeen.
Ryan Hedges (11) scores a goal 1-0 and celebrates, celebration during the Europa Conference League match between Aberdeen and Breidablik.

For the first time in more than a decade the lucrative European group stages are within touching distance for Aberdeen.

It is clear wanted man Ryan Hedges, who netted twice in the 2-1 defeat of Breidablik (5-3 on aggregate, will be vital to the bid to reach the groups.

What is also imperative is that the 26-year-old is still at Pittodrie should Aberdeen see off Qarabag to reach the groups.

Aberdeen recently rejected a £500,000 bid for Hedges from a Championship club.

The Reds have tabled a new contact to Hedges that would make him one of the top earners at the club.

However, Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough have also shown interest in Hedges and this Euro brace will only increase his profile and alert him to clubs.

Having seen off the Icelanders 5-3 on aggregate the Dons now face the Azerbaijan side who defeated Cypriot’s AEL Limassol at home 1-0 to progress 2-1 on aggregate.

Aberdeen will face Qarabag in the play-off round after the Azerbaijan outfit  defeated Cypriot’s AEL Limassol at home 1-0 to progress 2-1 on aggregate.

The Reds now face the mammoth 5,100 mile round trip to Baku, the Azerbaijan capital for the first leg on Thursday – a short turnaround for a game with so much riding on it.

To compound matters the Reds will also have to face stifling heat with the temperature in Baku in excess of 30 degrees in the evening.

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass.
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass  on the touchline in the Euro tie against Breidablik.

Qarabag are past-masters at progressing beyond the play-offs having qualified for the group stages of European football for each of the last seven seasons – six times in the Europa League Once in the Champions League in 2017-18.

This was the first time in almost 18 months that Aberdeen had been back to full operating capacity.

The Red Army packed out the stadium and were in full voice for a momentous moment – the full return of supporters, a day we have waited a long, long time for.

There were wholesale changes to the side that defeated Livingston 2-1 on Sunday with team captain Scott Brown, leading scorer Christian Ramirez, Calvin Ramsay, Ross McCrorie and Lewis Ferguson all returning to the starting line-up.

Dropping to the bench were Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Niall McGinn, Jonny Hayes, Teddy Jenks and Jack Gurr.

In the 14th minute, Breidablik threatened when Jason Dadi Svandorsson burst into the right hand edge of the box and fired a low cross into a congested penalty area.

All it needed was a touch from a Breidablik player, but the Dons defence managed to clear the danger.

Aberdeen supporters pack out Pittodrie for the Euro tie against Breidablik.

Aberdeen exploded into life in the first leg in Iceland with two goals in the opening 11 minutes, but this was a far more cagey opening from the Reds.

In the 20th minute, Gisli Eyjolfsson was booked for a challenge on Dons team captain Scott Brown near the centre circle.

There was a long wait for the first real effort at goal when Lewis Ferguson, playing in a more advanced role, attempted to test the keeper from long range in the 25th minute.

His 25-yard curling effort sailed high over the bar.

Breidablik caught Aberdeen on the break in the 31st minute when a sweeping move left the back-line struggling.

Svanborsson found the run into the box of Viktor Karl Einarsson with a cut inside, but just as he was about to shoot Ross McCrorie slid in with a well timed tackle to dispossess.

Aberdeen came close in the 35th minute when Lewis Ferguson found Christian Ramirez at the edge of the penalty area with a short pass.

Ramirez then slid a pass to Ryan Hedges who was unmarked, but fired a weak shot straight at the keeper. It was a fantastic opportunity wasted.

In the 42nd minute, Ramirez was played in on goal, but with only the keeper to beat shot straight at Einarsson from 15 yards.

Moments later the impressive Jack MacKenzie fired in a vicious 18-yard drive that keeper Einarsson did well to save.

The Dons were beginning to dominate – and threaten.

In the 42nd minute, Ramirez was played in on goal, but with only the keeper to beat shot straight at Einarsson from 15 yards.

Half-time: Aberdeen 0 Breidablik 0

In an attempt to assert authority on the game, boss Stephen Glass made a double substitution at the break with Funso Ojo on for Dylan McGeouch and Connor McLennan replacing Declan Gallagher.

It was an inspired substitution as within two minutes Ojo had grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and orchestrated the opening goal.

Ojo received a pass from Ferguson just inside the Icelander’s half and then went on a marauding run down the left flank brushing off two challenges.

Breaking into the box, he then held off Damir Muminovic before hitting the byline and cutting the ball back to HEDGES who slotted home from four yards.

It was magnificent play from Ojo, who looked to be on his way out of Aberdeen last season having been sent on loan.

Handed a life-line by manager Glass, the midfielder has grabbed the opportunity and looks like he could be an important player this season.

Moments later Ferguson rifled a 25-yard drive wide of target.

Breidablik hit back in the 59th minute when Einarsson layed off a pass to Gisli EYJOLFSSON, who unleashed a superb 16-yard right-footed strike beyond Lewis.

Aberdeen should have netted moments later when McLennan burst down the wing and crossed into Hedges, but he shot straight at the keeper from 10 yards.

Aberdeen made it 2-1 in the 71st minute when Ojo crossed to the edge of the box and Ramirez flicked the ball over his head to find HEDGES.

The attacker fired in a superb curling effort from 20 yards out to seal the Dons’ progress to the play-offs.

 

ABERDEEN (3-4-2-1): Lewis 7, McCrorie 7, Gallagher 5 (McLennan 46) , Considine 7, Ramsay 8, Mackenzie 8 (Hayes 79),  Brown 7, McGeouch 5 (Ojo 46), Hedges 8 (Jenks 88), Ferguson 7, Ramirez 7 (Emmanuel-Thomas 79)

Subs not used: Woods, Ritchie, McGinn, Gurr, Campbell, Ruth, Hancock.

BREIDABLIK (4-2-3-1) : Einarsson 6, Margeirsson 6, Muminovic 6, Atlason 6 (Steindorsson 55), Ingvarsson 6, Sigurjonsson 6 (Sigurdson 55), Einarsson 6 (Margeirsson 87) Svanthorsson 7 (Gudjararson 87) Eyjolfsson 6, Vilhjalmsson 7, Gunnlaugsson 6.

Subs not used: Bragason, Helgason, Margeirsson, Gilason, Yeoman, Robertsson, Jonsson, Thorsteinsson.

Man of the match: Ryan Hedges

Referee: Marco Di Bello (Italy)

Attendance: 15,107

 

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