Aberdeen’s Europa League venture came to a heartbreaking end after a 3-1 extra-time defeat to Burnley.
Chris Wood rattled Burnley in front after only six minutes and the early signs were worrying for the Dons.
However, Lewis Ferguson’s moment of inspiration, launching himself through the air to acrobatically finish, gave the away side a massive platform to build on.
They were indebted to the performance of Joe Lewis, who produced numerous vital saves to take the game to extra-time, only for Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes to rob the visitors of a fairytale ending.
Andrew Considine was the only change for Aberdeen, having recovered from concussion to be drafted in as part of a back five for the visitors. Sean Dyche’s two changes were expected, with Anders Lindegaard starting his first game in two years in goal and last week’s goalscorer Sam Vokes given the nod ahead of Jeff Hendrick in attack.
This was Aberdeen’s first competitive game south of the border since 1981, when John Hewitt netted the equaliser in the first leg against Ipswich Town. The Dons triumphed 3-1 at Pittodrie in the second leg to advance and a similarly heroic performance was required in Lancashire.
They were given little time to play themselves into the game. Burnley started with the intensity they lacked in the first leg and Wood’s coolness gave them an early foothold.
Ashley Westwood got the better of Graeme Shinnie in midfield and landed a pass perfectly between Scott McKenna and Joe Lewis to give Wood a sniff. The Dons defence hesitated where the New Zealander did not, keeping calm among the bodies to smash in.
Everything appeared to be geared in Burnley’s favour, with the Dons offering little in the way of a goal threat. But all that changed in one sensational moment.
Gary Mackay-Steven was given a second chance to cross and Wood, doing his duties at the opposite end, diverted into Ferguson’s path. Few would have expected what came next; an overhead kick sent crashing past a static Lindegaard to level the contest again.
Shinnie tickled the gloves of Lindegaard just before the break, as a Dons team in the ascendancy threatened to upset the applecart further.
An clearly annoyed Dyche would have had strong words at the interval and that team-talk clearly roused his side – and the home support – into life.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson forced a superb stop out of Lewis and those in claret and blue were growing more frustrated with referee Massimiliano Irrati, after numerous appeals for a penalty were waved off.
When Shinnie approached Niall McGinn’s cut-back the Dons fans behind the goal held their breath, only to watch the ball whistle over the top.
Lewis remained as big a barrier as he could to Burnley’s hopes of progression and stayed up long enough to get a big left hand to Ashley Barnes’ ferocious effort.
Shinnie, who seemed hell-bent on dragging the visitors towards an unforgettable victory, rattled in a drive towards Lindegaard’s near post that the Dane beat away. The intensity of the game dropped little and Lewis was there again to produce the save of the match, getting the slightest of fingertips on Vokes’ header.
Substitute Scott Wright threatened to abandon any plans for extra-time with a left-wing free-kick that flashed across the face of goal, but the extra 30 minutes were beckoning.
Gudmundsson, arguably the Clarets’ stand-out player, teased a near-post effort that was blocked and Ben Mee sent his header from the resulting corner straight at Lewis.
But Cork was the man to see his side home with 102 minutes on the clock, guiding Charlie Taylor’s cross into the far corner.
Barnes’ penalty, given for a handball against McKenna from Gudmundsson, was the icing on the cake for the Clarets, who advance to face Istanbul Basaksehir next week.