Aberdeen’s Europa League campaign wilted at Pittodrie as an early goal and sending off ended their hopes of a comeback against HNK Rijeka.
The Dons were a goal down and a man down inside the opening 20 minutes as their European campaign was ended in ruthless fashion by Rijeka who won 2-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate.
Sam Cosgrove, who was ruled out by his manager yesterday, was named in the starting line-up while Shay Logan, Niall McGinn and Jon Gallagher were all recalled after starting Sunday’s 1-0 loss at St Mirren on the bench.
HNK Rijeka manager Igor Biscan made one change from the team which beat the Dons 2-0 last week with Momcilo Raspopovic replacing the injured Ivan Tomecak at left back.
Aberdeen fans were hoping for a fast start from their side and an early goal to unsettle the Croats but the visitors clearly had not read the script as they opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
It was all so simple too as Maxwell Acosty found space down the right and his cross was met by the unmarked Stjepan Loncar who beat Dons captain Joe Lewis with a fine first-time finish.
The goal left the Dons needing four goals but an unphill task became an insurmountable one when they were reduced to 10 men in the 20th minute.
Funso Ojo, who was booked in the sixth minute for a foul on Acosty, was late with a challenge on Luka Capan, earning himself an early bath and his goalkeeper was also booked for dissenting at referee Harald Lechner’s decision.
Any shred of hope the home side had left was ruthlessly ripped away by Rijeka as they made it 2-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate just after the half hour mark.
Acosty, whose explosive pace had troubled the Dons from the first whistle, burst through the gap where Ojo had been deployed before being tackled by Jon Gallagher. The ball broke to visiting captain Zoran Kvrzic and his cross found Antonio Colak whose downward header from close range beat Lewis.
It was all too much for some Dons fans who headed for the exit. Their side had struggled but they were also unhappy at the official who seemed determined to brandish yellow cards at every turn towards their players all while seemingly turning a blind eye to any fouls by the opposition with Capan in particular hugely fortunate to make it to the break without a caution.
Those who departed early missed Ryan Hedges test Andrej Prskalo from 25 yards but the Wales international’s shot was the only time Aberdeen came close to troubling the opposing goalkeeper in a game which is best forgotten.
The second half was a non-event. Rijeka, assured of a place in the play-off round, were happy with their lot. The Dons, bruised and beaten, were relieved it was all over.