Aberdeen were cruelly denied a first leg lead over Burnley after Sam Vokes’ late goal rescued a 1-1 draw for the English Premier League side in last night’s Europa League second qualifying round match at Pittodrie.
The Dons had led for much of the match after Gary Mackay-Steven deservedly put Derek McInnes in front from the penalty spot on 19 minutes.
Aberdeen enjoyed some excellent spells of play but were unable to force a second goal, before substitute Vokes netted a fine leveller with just 10 minutes remaining to secure a valuable away goal for the Clarets, who host the return leg at Turf Moor next Thursday.
McInnes fielded three debutants from the start, including Tommie Hoban who was instantly pitched in at left back as part of a 4-5-1 formation, after joining on loan from Watford earlier this week. There were also competitive debuts for ex-Hamilton Accies pair Michael Devlin and Lewis Ferguson, who have both impressed during pre-season, while Sam Cosgrove was chosen to lead the line.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley side, which finished seventh in the Premier League last season, included eight full internationalists from the start, with New Zealand attacker Chris Wood flanked by the vastly experienced Aaron Lennon.
Along with a sell-out 20,313 Pittodrie crowd, both sets of players were greeted by an emotional tribute to Gothenburg Great Neale Cooper in the first competitive match since he died in May, with the Red Army unfurling a banner in the Richard Donald Stand saying “Heroes get remembered, legends never die.”
The Dons’ first meaningful breakaway came on eight minutes when Niall McGinn’s tempting low delivery from the left evaded everyone before it was retrieved by Gary Mackay-Steven on the opposite flank. His return cross was headed back into McGinn’s path by Dominic Ball, however the Northern Irishman lashed his effort well over.
Burnley were dealt a blow on 14 minutes when goalkeeper Nick Pope, who was part of England’s World Cup squad in Russia, was forced off injured after colliding with Cosgrove, with Anders Lindegaard brought on in his place.
Cosgrove was proving a nuisance for the Clarets, and it was a foul on the Englishman that led to the Dons taking the lead on 19 minutes. Mackay-Steven’s cross from the right was destined for the head of Cosgrove before he was caught by the arm of James Tarkowski, with Mackay-Steven calmly sending Lingegaard the wrong way from the spot.
Backed by a noisy Pittodrie crowd, Aberdeen looked firmly in the mood to inflict more damage, with Shinnie seeing a low effort from the edge of the box comfortably held by Lindegaard.
The Dons were defending valiantly to keep Burnley at bay, with Wood’s shot drifting over, before Lennon had a low effort blocked following a corner, while Hoban had to make a fine intervention to clear Stephen Ward’s dangerous low cross.
The visitors were struggling to create clear-cut chances however, with the Dons well worthy of their half time lead. The Reds had goalkeeper Joe Lewis to thank for keeping them ahead on 52 minutes however, with an outstanding double save thwarting Jack Cork’s header and Lennon’s drilled follow up effort.
The Dons had a great chance to double their lead on the counter-attack from a Burnley corner just two minutes later however, with Mackay-Steven bursting forward before picking out Cosgrove, but his low strike was well held by Lindegaard.
The Danish goalkeeper had to produce even quicker reactions on 65 minutes to deny Mackay-Steven a second goal, with the winger heading goalwards after Cosgrove had knocked McGinn’s delivery into his path.
Burnley looked to get back into the match, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson lashing over from the edge of the box, before substitute Sam Vokes headed into the side netting.
The Dons pushed for a second goal, with McGinn flashing an effort wide from the inside left channel.
Burnley cruelly restored parity in outstanding fashion on 80 minutes however, when substitute Vokes showed sublime control before lashing high past Lewis from 12 yards, with a potentially crucial strike ahead of next week’s second leg.
The winner of the tie will face Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir in the third qualifying round.