Aberdeen ended the League Cup jinx as they saw off Livingston to reach the quarter-finals, but boy did the Dons make hard work of this one.
The last three winners of the competition, Rangers, Kilmarnock and St Mirren, have all been eliminated in their first match of the following season by lower league opposition, but the Dons bucked the trend with victory at Pittodrie, but they made hard work of overcoming their Championship opponents.
Livingston competed gamely in the first half, forcing goalkeeper Scott Brown into three fine saves, the second of which was a terrific one, but the Dons finishing proved the difference between the sides as a second half hat-trick from Adam Rooney made for an emphatic scoreline.
The contrast could not have been starker as Aberdeen started their League Cup defence against Livingston at Pittodrie. From having 40,000 cheering them to victory against Caley Thistle in March the Dons had little more than a fifth of that support behind them at Pittodrie as the cup journey got underway.
It was a subdued beginning to this season’s cup competition, which provided the first trophy in 19 years for the club in the last campaign.
Dons manager Derek McInnes made two changes from the side which beat Ross County 3-0 on Saturday. Former Cheltenham Town goalkeeper Scott Brown made his competitive debut for the Dons as Jamie Langfield was rested while Nicky Low replaced the injured Niall McGinn.
Livingston manager John McGlynn named the same team which lost 1-0 at home to Raith Rovers in the Championship on Saturday with former Ross County attacker Gary Glen given the task of leading the line for his club.
The atmosphere was a subdued one but the Aberdeen players were eager to make the most of their home advantage and they quickly set about the task of testing Darren Jamieson in the opening minutes with both David Goodwillie and Adam Rooney forcing the Livingston goalkeeper to make saves.
But the Dons were not to be denied the early goal they craved as a quickly taken corner resulted in Willo Flood flighting a cross to the back post where Ashton Taylor rose to head the ball into the net.
It was just the start Aberdeen craved but Livi’s response was impressive as they pinned the home side back following the loss of the early goal. A terrific 25 yard drive from Keaghan Jacobs forced Brown to make a fine block before Shay Logan denied Gary Glen from netting a close range equaliser.
Aberdeen were rattled by Livingston’s strong reaction to losing the goal but it took a fine one handed save from Jamieson to prevent his side from going 2-0 down, the goalkeeper diving low to his right to keep out Adam Rooney’s low drive before the Irishman fired the rebound over the crossbar.
Rooney’s chance seemed to rouse the Dons from their malaise and they finished the first half strongly, forcing Jamieson into further saves from Rooney and Nicky Low but the visitors showed they were still a threat as Glen fired a low drive toward goal, only for Brown to make a terrific fingertip save to turn his goalbound shot past the post before tipping Jordan White’s shot over the crossbar.
With an hour on the clock and his side no nearer to finding a second goal, McInnes made a tactical change, sending on Andrew Considine for Nicky Low.
The change allowed Jonny Hayes to push forward into midfield and the change paid off instantly as the midfielder played the ball up to David Goodwillie, whose superb backheel set-up Rooney and the attacker finished in style with a ferocious shot which went in off the crossbar.
The goal put the Dons firmly in control of proceedings but their joy at establishing a two-goal lead was shortlived as Ryan Jack was stretchered off. The Dons midfielder seemed to land awkwardly after stretching to make a pass and was clearly in a great deal of distress.
Following a lengthy delay, Cammy Smith and Barry Robson replaced the injured Jack and tiring Goodwillie, and substitute Smith made an instant impact, linking up with Peter Pawlett, whose pass found Rooney on the edge of the box. The forward made the most of his chance, drilling the ball low past Jamieson from 14 yards to make it 3-0.
The former Caley Thistle man completed his hat-trick two minutes from time when he side-footed Hayes’ cross from close range to secure safe passage for Aberdeen.