Aberdeen supporters will be biting their fingernails at the prospect of their side joining St Johnstone and Rangers in making an early exit from European football following NK Siroki Brijeg’s 1-1 draw with the Dons at Pittodrie on Thursday.
The scene is set for a thrilling second leg in Bosnia and Herzegovina next week in the return leg where the Dons know they simply must score.
If they don’t, then that’s that for another year. High stakes which mean a high tempo performance is required.
It’s going to be tough, not just with Siroki Brijeg showing enough in glimpses last night to suggest they will be more a threat at Pecara Stadium in front of their home support, but also due to the searing heat Aberdeen could be playing in.
Temperatures have been in the high 30s all week and Aberdeen will have to fight against 65% humidity and the heat as well as the opposition in what promises to be an edgy second leg.
It is the tempo that was lacking in the first leg. When the Dons took the game to their opponents the Blues looked hesitant and uncertain, especially goalkeeper Luka Bilobrk.
Sustaining it, however, was difficult and it seemed Aberdeen went through the gears in fits and bursts rather than smoothly. When it was full throttle, Brijeg wobbled. The challenge next week is to make sure the foot is to the floor for longer spells than it was last night.
Let’s be honest here, the Dons were not at their best at Pittodrie but they still showed enough in glimpses to suggest they can progress to the third qualifying round where, in all likelihood Apollon Limassol lie in wait following their 3-0 first leg win against Zaria Balti of Moldova last night.
Ryan Christie capped an outstanding display with a goal of real quality. Credit Dons goalkeeper Joe Lewis for picking him out with his long ball in the first instance, but Christie’s control, composure and cool finish was first class. More of that next week please young man.
It is clear Greg Tansey has taken on set-piece duties following his arrival from Caley Thistle. The midfielder’s dead ball prowess is excellent and a few of his balls into the box had the opposition in a panic last night.
Gary Mackay-Steven, just 24 hours after joining from Celtic, had some good runs down the left wing too which suggest he’ll be a valuable addition once he is up and running. A week of training with his team-mates will benefit him greatly for the second leg.
The same can be said for Greg Stewart and Nicky Maynard. Stewart is lacking sharpness after sitting on the sidelines for a year at Birmingham City but his brief cameo was exciting and entertaining.
The same can be said for Maynard. He almost netted a debut winning goal but his header landed just wide of the post with the Siroki Brijeg goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
All is not lost. Aberdeen had their chances and could easily have had one eye on the next round already. It is uncommon for the Dons to be so generous in front of goal two games in a row.