Aberdeen boss Barry Robson hailed his squad for giving big spending Group G leaders PAOK a “bloody nose” in Greece.
Robson says he is proud of the Dons for going “toe-to-toe” to draw 2-2 away from home against PAOK in the Europa Conference League clash.
The battling draw ended PAOK’s 100% record in Group G.
Despite the heroics at the Toumba Stadium, the Dons’ hopes of progressing from the group stages are over.
For Robson it was a “cruel” way for Aberdeen’s Euro dream to be killed off.
The Dons cannot catch PAOK or Eintracht Frankfurt who are on 10 and nine points respectively.
Aberdeen are sitting on two points, with just two Group G matches remaining.
Aberdeen received a deserved standing ovation from the 800-strong travelling Red Army after the match.
Robson said: “We came and went toe to toe with them, we gave them a bloody nose.
“Was it a cruel way to go out?
“I think so, I’ve been so proud of the players and I’m disappointed for them.
“The fans gave the boys a standing ovation and that says it all.
“They gave us everything, this is a PAOK team who beat Eintracht Frankfurt here and beat Olympiakos 4-2 last weekend.
“PAOK are a team who have been invested in to sign some real quality players.
“Everyone who has watched us can see we have gone toe-to-toe with some big clubs, great teams in Europe.”
‘You need to have courage and guts to be an Aberdeen player’
The Toumba Stadium is dubbed ‘The Black Hell’ because of the intimidating atmosphere.
Robson said: “You need to have courage and guts to be an Aberdeen player.
“We have performed well.
“You have to realise the quality we are coming up against.
“We were 2-0 up with 17 minutes to go at home against PAOK but although we lost the game, I thought we were excellent.
“We played well in Frankfurt, we should have beaten Helsinki at home.
“I don’t care what anyone says, we have put in some great performances.
“I am so proud of the group, they are in a cup final and they can only grow further from here.”
Dons will ‘keep fighting’ in Europe
Aberdeen have two matches remaining against HJK Helsinki in Finland and Eintracht Frankfurt at Pittodrie.
Despite the group qualification bid being over Robson insists there will be no let up from his players in Europe.
And he is gunning for six points from the remaining two fixtures.
He said: “It was the real disappointment that we can’t progress from the group.
“We tried to go for it but probably just lacked that bit in the end.
“This is real top quality we were facing.
“We will keep fighting
“I love European football. I loved it as a player and I love it as a manager.
“So we will be doing everything we can to get points over the next two games.
“Anyone who knows me knows there has never been a game which doesn’t matter.
“I want us to get more points on the board so we will go out to perform in the next two games.
“It was a difficult game tonight but we showed a good structure and fight tonight.
“We got a point and came here looking for more.”
PAOK boss left frustrated
PAOK manager Razvan Lucescu says he was not surprised by Aberdeen’s performance in Greece.
The Greek Super League team battled back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Pittodrie last month.
Lucescu was adamant PAOK deserved to win both games, but dropping points was eased by securing qualification for the knock-out stages.
He said: “I wasn’t surprised by Aberdeen.
“We totally controlled both games and deserved to win them both.
“We didn’t win tonight but at the same time we did what we wanted to – qualified.
“For us that was the important step forward we wanted to take and now we can keep going in the competition.”