Aberdeen’s European run is under threat after they suffered a 2-0 defeat to HNK Rijeka in their Europa League third qualifying round tie.
Antonio Colak opened the scoring on 62 minutes with a penalty, after Shay Logan pulled down Luka Capan, and Robert Muric hammered in a late second for the home side.
It leaves the Dons with an uphill task at Pittodrie next week, if they are to keep alive a long-held ambition of making the group stages.
Scott McKenna started for the Dons amid the transfer speculation that has surrounded him this week, while Niall McGinn and Ryan Hedges returned to the team after being substitutes against Hearts. New addition Zak Vyner, signed just ahead of the registration deadline, made the bench.
Three Dons players – Shay Logan, Andy Considine and Niall McGinn – were in the side that won in Rijeka four years ago, with Considine scoring that night in the Stadion Kantrida.
The first chance of the game fell to Rijeka centre-half Roberto Puncec, who met Tibor Halilovic’s corner first time but sent his shot over Joe Lewis’ crossbar.
Rijeka had their first spot of defensive work to do nine minutes in, with Maxwell Acosty intervening crucially to prevent Sam Cosgrove’s knock-down reaching Lewis Ferguson.
After a pause in the game due to a clash of heads between Hedges and Ivan Lepinjica, the hosts threatened again. Halilovic was again involved, taking Acosty’s pass at the right edge of the penalty and fizzing a shot over the top.
The Croatian Cup holders ought to have been in front on the half-hour mark but Dario Zuparic somehow completely missed the target. Ivan Lepinjica diverted Halilovic’s left-wing corner goalwards that Lewis did well to parry, with the rebound falling to an unmarked Zuparic six yards from goal. With Lewis out of the picture, he skewed his shot wide.
Other than that Lewis was relatively untroubled, with the lively Acosty looking to threaten but denied space in behind to operate.
It was Halilovic who was proving to be the home side’s biggest threat and he had Lewis scrambling with a swerving left-footed strike that beat the far post.
They took the lead just after the hour with Logan guilty of an unwise shirt-pull on Capan and referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoechea pointed to the spot. Colak, who had a quiet game up until that point, made no mistake from the spot.
Aberdeen showed little sign of grabbing an equalising goal and their plight was worsened with three minutes to go as Muric delivered a vital second for the home side.