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Former Aberdeen goalkeeper Peter Kjaer admits Hertha Berlin defeat still rankles

The Danish goalkeeper felt the Dons were the better team over two legs against the Bundesliga side.

Michael Preetz scores for Hertha Berlin against Aberdeen. Image: Newsline.
Michael Preetz scores for Hertha Berlin against Aberdeen. Image: Newsline.

Former Aberdeen goalkeeper Peter Kjaer still believes the Dons should have knocked Hertha Berlin out of the Uefa Cup in 2002.

A tense first leg at Pittodrie finished 0-0 and Ebbe Skovdahl’s Dons travelled to Germany with the tie firmly in the balance.

Aberdeen had made it past Moldovan side Nistru Otaci 1-0 on aggregate in the qualifying round before being paired with Hertha in the first round of the Uefa Cup.

Hertha qualified for European football by finishing fourth in the Bundesliga and had a squad full of internationals, including Brazilian attacking midfielder Marcelinho and German international forward Michael Preetz.

The second leg, played at the Olympiastadion, looked to be there for the taking when Hertha were reduced to 10 men after midfielder Andreas Neuendorf was sent off for a head-butt on Phil McGuire in the first half.

But the Dons surrendered their numerical advantage when Eric Deloumeaux was sent off midway through the second half.

Aberdeen’s Roberto Bisconti has a shot from distance against Hertha Berlin. Image: DC Thomson.

With eight minutes to go, Aberdeen almost netted when Russell Anderson’s header was cleared off the line.

Disaster struck two minutes from time when Preetz, who came off the bench, headed beyond Kjaer to win the tie.

Kjaer said: “I remember the games against Hertha Berlin and I felt we were the better team over the two legs.

“It is difficult to say that when you lose 1-0 on aggregate.

“We played well over there.

“We had some big chances, but they scored late on with a header.

“I remember our chance when we had one cleared off the line.

“It was a typical first leg that we didn’t want to lose and it finished 0-0.

“That was a decent enough result and we went over to Germany believing we could get through.

“I felt we deserved to go through, but they had a good player – Michael Preetz – who scored with the header.

“He was a German international.

“Hertha Berlin were a big club, but we played well over those two big games.”

The Dons leaving Aberdeen Airport to play Hertha Berlin. Image: DC Thomson.

The Dons were backed by a 2,000-strong travelling support in Berlin to watch their side take on a Hertha outfit who had spent £25million on new players in the summer.

With Scotland international Kevin McNaughton ruled out of the second leg due to injury, young defender Kevin Rutkiewicz made his first Aberdeen start in five months.

Kjaer said: “I don’t remember being that busy during the games.

“I had to make a couple of saves over there.

“We were well organised, which you have to be in Europe.

“If you aren’t a strong unit then you are in trouble as all of the teams have individual players who can cause problems.

“We had a hard-working team and I didn’t feel like I was under fire all the time.

“It was a good performance from the team.”

Aberdeen midfielder Roberto Bisconti in a challenge with Hertha Berlin’s Marcelinho. Image: SNS.

Despite losing the match, Kjaer felt the Dons took a lot from going toe-to-toe with the Bundesliga outfit over two legs.

He hopes Barry Robson’s side will also reap the benefits from their match against Eintracht Frankfurt in their opening group game in the Europa Conference League on September 21.

Kjaer, who now works as a pundit in Denmark, said: “Playing in Europe with Aberdeen was one of the highlights of my time at the club.

“To qualify for Europe was a great feeling and playing the games was was the icing on the cake.

“It was great for the young players at the club.

“I played for the Denmark national team, so I had the experience of international football.

“But going to play somewhere like Berlin was a really new experience for the players and one I’m sure they took a lot from.

“Hopefully the Aberdeen players take a lot from playing in Frankfurt against a good team and that experience makes them stronger in the Scottish Premiership.”

The Evening Express’ coverage of Aberdeen’s narrow defeat in Berlin.

The Aberdeen team who faced Hertha Berlin…

Peter Kjaer – Joined Aberdeen in October 2001 after being released by Beskitas. Won four caps for Denmark. Stayed with the Dons until June 2003 before retiring from football. Now working as a pundit in his homeland.

Kevin Rutkiewicz – Spent six years with the Dons before joining St Johnstone in 2004. Went on to play for a number of clubs, including Dunfermline, Morton and Carolina RailHawks. He had spells as manager of Stirling Albion and East Kilbride. He left East Kilbride in March this year.

Russell Anderson – The Dons legend moved to Sunderland in 2007 where he had loan spells at Plymouth Argyle and Burnley. He moved to Derby County in 2010 before returning to Aberdeen under Craig Brown in 2012. Captained the side to League Cup success in 2014. Won 11 caps for Scotland.

Phil McGuire – Left Aberdeen in 2005 to join Doncaster Rovers before returning north of the border to sign for Dunfermline Athletic in 2006. A loan spell at Caley Thistle followed before he signed for Highland League side Formartine United in 2009. He ended his career with spells at Arbroath, Lochee United, Montrose, Jeanfield Swifts and St Andrews United. Now manager of Carnoustie Panmure.

Jamie McAllister – The left-back moved to Livingston in 2003 and scored for Livi in their 2-0 League Cup final win against Hibernian a year later. He spent two years at Hearts before moving to Bristol City in 2006 where he made 210 appearances over a six-year period. Ended his career with stints at Yeovil Town, Kerala Blasters and Exeter City. He was most recently working as assistant manager to Lee Johnson at Hibernian before Johnson was sacked last month.

Darren Mackie – Made more than 300 appearances for the Dons between 1998 and 2012. He scored the goal against Dnipro that earned the Dons a place in the Uefa Cup group stage in 2007. He later moved to the United States to join Phoenix before ending his career in the Highland League with Turriff United and Inverurie Locos.

Darren Young – The midfielder, who captained the Dons, joined Dunfermline in 2003 before spells at Dundee, Queen of the South, Morton, Alloa, Albion Rovers and East Fife. Managed Albion Rovers from 2014 to 2017, leading the club to the League Two title in his first season in charge. He was in charge of East Fife from 2017 to 2021 and now works at Stirling Albion boss. He led the Binos to the League Two title last season.

Aberdeen’s Derek Young has a shot at goal in the first leg against Hertha Berlin. Image: DC Thomson.

Derek Young – Moved with his brother Darren to Dunfermline in 2003. Had a spell at St Johnstone and Partick Thistle before returning to Pittodrie in 2007. He joined Icelandic side Grindavik in 2011 before spells at Morton, Queen of the South, Forfar and Formartine. Now working as a youth coach at Pittodrie.

Eric Deloumeaux – The Frenchman moved to Coventry City in 2004 before moving back to Scotland with Livingston in 2005. Now working as an agent and a scout in France.

Roberto Bisconti – The Belgian midfielder moved from the Dons to Romanian side Rapid Bucharest in 2003. He returned for a fourth spell at Standard Liege before spending time in France with Nice and Guingamp. He had a short stint at Greek side Panthrakikos in 2008 before ending his career with spells at lower league Belgian sides Vise and Sersien. Capped 13 times by Belgium.

Laurent D’Jaffo – The Benin international left the Dons in 2003 and went on to play for Mansfield Town. He was part of the Benin squad for the 2004 African Nations Cup. Now working as a football agent.

Substitutes: Leon Mike, Chris Clark, Nicolas Fabiano, Scott Michie, Stephen Payne, Patrizio Billio, David Preece.