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Graeme Shinnie leads way as Aberdeen see off 10-man Ross County to reach Viaplay Cup semis

A vicious volley from the Dons skipper put the visitors on course for the win against their gutsy hosts.

Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie rifles home his early volley at Ross County.
Image: Ross Parker/SNS Group
Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie rifles home his early volley at Ross County. Image: Ross Parker/SNS Group

Early and late drama in Dingwall led to Aberdeen earning a 2-1 Viaplay Cup victory at Ross County to move into their second successive semi-final in the competition.

Graeme Shinnie’s wonderful volley early on was soon followed by a straight red card for home captain Jack Baldwin.

County hung in there until late on when sub Ester Sokler’s first touch of the night brought his first Dons goal to make it 2-0.

A Kyle Turner penalty set up a tense conclusion, but Aberdeen made it through into the last four.

Aberdeen went into the cup clash with their tails up following their impressive 4-0 Premiership win against County on Sunday at Pittodrie.

Both camps spoke pre-match about how Dingwall under the lights with a Hampden semi-final at stake was sure to be a completely different affair.

Dons manager Barry Robson wanted more of the same, with the Reds eyeing the chance to win the League Cup for the first time since 2014, which ended an agonising 19-year wait for silverware.

County, of course, are more recent holders of the trophy, having claimed it in 2016 under the guidance of Jim McIntyre and Billy Dodds.

Home manager Malky Mackay has urged his men to aim for at least a trip to the national stadium from day one this season.

Aberdeen players celebrate after Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring.

Last year, treble-winners Celtic halted County’s League Cup ambitions in round two, while Rangers denied Aberdeen a place in the final with an extra-time semi victory.

County made three changes, with George Harmon, Victor Loturi and Josh Sims in for Josh Reid, Kyle Turner and Jordan White.

Aberdeen’s change was enforced, with Jonny Hayes coming in for James McGarry, who missed out with a hamstring injury which saw him taken off after just six minutes on Sunday. McGarry could be sidelined for up to six weeks, his manager confirmed.

The rain lashed down as the play got started, with the forecasted Storm Agnes no doubt putting some fans off, especially on the home front.

Aberdeen surged in front after just eight minutes.

A long throw-in from defender Stefan Gartenmann was not properly mopped up by Will Nightingale.

The ball found Shinnie and he crashed an unstoppable long-range left-footed drive high past Ross Laidlaw into the net.

It was a strike worthy of winning any tie, but thankfully for County time was on their side.

However, moments later, Baldwin was sent packing by referee John Beaton when he brought Duk to ground after the striker got the better of him.

Ross County’s Jack Baldwin was sent off for this challenge on Duk.

Thankfully, the follow-up free-kick came to zero, but one man and one goal down, it was all going wrong for the Staggies.

It could have been 2-0 on 23 minutes after Duk darted down the right flank, but his low cross was wasted when Bojan Miovski slipped on the turf and the chance was gone.

It was comfortable for Aberdeen, though. They were moving with precision and pace. The Dingwall team were probing for a way into the tie, but without luck.

On 36 minutes, a superb defence-splitting pass from Connor Barron picked out Miovski, but the striker’s clever clipped ball dipped over the top of Laidlaw’s bar.

At the break, the Dons were in front, but it was only 1-0 and still not put to bed.

Five minutes into the second half, a smart move from Aberdeen ended with Laidlaw clutching a shot from Hayes after Duk lined him up.

Ross County’s Victor Loturi (left) and Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie.

In the next move, Shinnie took control of the ball after a slip-up, broke into the County penalty area, but his drive was deflected wide by Connor Randall. The corner came to nothing.

Dons skipper Shinnie was screaming for a spot-kick on 67 minutes when he was felled by James Brown in the box, but referee John Beaton was not interested.

The captain was doing all in his power with his positive play to try to get Aberdeen the second goal they craved to kill County off.

The Staggies’ Josh Sims left the pitch on a stretcher with 13 minutes to go after he came out second best in a challenge with Duncan, something which will be a concern for Mackay.

Aberdeen looked to have sealed victory when Slovenian Sokler slammed home their second when he got on the end of a low driving cross from fellow sub Leighton Clarkson after Duncan sparked the move.

However, County pulled one back from the spot when Slobodan Rubezic felled another replacement, Alex Samuel, and Turner made no mistake, rifling the ball into the net.

There were appeals for another late spot-kick appeal when Ryan Leak looked to have pulled back Reds scorer Sokler, but they were ignored and, seconds later, the final whistle blew.

Aberdeen’s Ester Sokler scores to make it 2-0.

Ross County (3-5-2) – Laidlaw 6, Nightingale 6, Baldwin 3, Leak 6, Brown 6, Randall 6, Loturi 6 (Samuel 76), Harmon 6 (Reid 68), Dhanda 6 (Turner 68), Murray 6 (White 59), Sims 6 (Henderson 77).

Subs not used – Munro (GK), Purrington, Allardice, High.

Aberdeen (3-5-2) – Roos 6, Gartenmann 6, Rubezic 6, Jensen 6, Devlin 6, Barron 7, Shinnie 7, Hayes 7 (Clarkson 55), McGrath 6 (Sokler 78), Miovski 6 (Gueye 86), Duk 7 (Duncan 55).

Subs not used – Doohan (GK), MacKenzie, Polvara, MacDonald, Milne.

Referee – John Beaton 6.

Man of the match – Graeme Shinnie.

Ross County’s Kyle Turner celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1.