Midfielder Kenny McLean’s acrobatic late header ensured Aberdeen got their Premiership season off to the perfect start, with a 1-0 win against Dundee United at Tannadice.
McLean nodded home David Goodwillie’s cross with just seven minutes left, with the former St Mirren midfielder’s third goal in four games securing all three points for Derek McInnes’ side between crucial European third qualifying round ties against Kairat Almaty.
The Dons made four changes from the side defeated 2-1 in Kazakhstan on Thursday night. Captain Ryan Jack dropped out, along with Peter Pawlett, David Goodwillie and Niall McGinn, the quartet replaced by McLean, Adam Rooney, Cammy Smith and Willo Flood, who deputised as captain.
United fielded three debutants, including German goalkeeper Luis Zwick, as well as defenders Mark Durnan and Coll Donaldson.
The hosts were first to threaten, with Blair Spittal’s corner prodded wide by Durnan inside the opening two minutes. However, the Dons grew into the game, with midfielder Graeme Shinne whistling a powerful strike narrowly high and wide from the edge of the box.
United forced Dons goalkeeper Danny Ward into action for the first time on 17 minutes, letting fly with a thunderbolt effort from distance, which the on-loan Liverpool custodian did well to thwart.
Aberdeen, likewise, produced their first shot on target minutes later, with delightful skill by Smith to set himself up for a shot, that was held at the second attempt by Zwick.
For all the Dons’ endeavour in attacking areas, it was United who ended the first-half with two fine chances to take the lead. Firstly, it took an excellent block by Jonny Hayes to divert Spittal’s shot, following a neat United break.
Moments later, Bilate won the break of the ball off Paul Quinn to go clean through on goal, but the attacker saw his shot thwarted by a superb save from Ward, to keep the scoreline blank at the interval.
The second-half continued along similar lines for the visitors, with plenty neat attacking play ultimately coming to nothing, Hayes sending a run-in-shot wide of target with options to square the ball.
United continued to be a threat at the other end, Durnan’s header saved by Ward before Donaldson glanced one over following a free-kick.
A great chance arrived for the Dons on 77 minutes, when Zwick spilled Shay Logan’s delivery, the ball falling to the feet of Andy Considine whose low effort was cleared off the line by Ryan McGowan.
With just seven minutes left, Aberdeen got the goal that ensured their domestic season got off to a flying start. Substitute Goodwillie swung in a cross from the left, with his delivery met by a glancing header by McLean, guiding it in at the far post to send all three points north.