Aberdeen were “victims of our own success”, says manager Stephen Glass, after his side progressed in the Europa Conference League despite a second-leg defeat by BK Hacken.
Leading 5-1 on aggregate, the Scottish side slipped up as Martin Olsson’s finish and Leo Bengtsson’s penalty gave the Swedish side victory in Gothenburg.
Patrik Walemark’s red card with 20 minutes left helped Aberdeen progress.
“They had absolutely nothing to lose,” Glass told BBC Scotland.
“It was a dangerous game. We didn’t annihilate them in the first leg, we were fantastic against a good team and they showed what they’re capable of tonight.
“When it was 50-50 in front of our fans at Pittodrie we showed what we were all about.”
Aberdeen’s reward is a tie against Breidablik after the Icelandic side stunned Austria Vienna 3-2 on aggregate, with the Pittodrie men now two ties from the group stage.
Pre-match Glass said he would not be rotating his squad with Sunday’s Scottish Premiership opener against Dundee United in mind, despite such a commanding lead.
Clearly looking to build momentum and cohesion, he stuck to his words and picked the same XI that took the Swedes apart at Pittodrie.
But, as in the first leg, Aberdeen made a shaky start, with Ross McCrorie blocking an early effort and Tobias Heintz rattling the outside of a post.
However, the visitors settled into the game and created the better chances in the first half, as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez forced Peter Abrahamsson into good saves.
That dominance seemed to kill Hacken’s spirit, but Olsson’s clever one-two and finish into the corner revived Swedish hopes early in the second half and they set about trying to unnerve Aberdeen.
Funso Ojo should have ended any doubt about the outcome of the tie just four minutes later, but he failed to connect with Ramirez’s cross with the goal gaping.
And worse was to come when substitute Nasiru Mohammed slid a pass through to Bengtsson, who was tripped by Joe Lewis before stepping up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Both sides lacked cohesion defensively and the game opened up, before a creaking Aberdeen side were handed a lifeline when Walemark was sent off after getting a second yellow card for connecting with Jack Mackenzie’s face.
It was a dubious call and it killed the Swedish side’s momentum as Aberdeen were able to steady themselves and crucially finish the job.
Man of the match – Nasiru Mohammed
What did we learn?
Aberdeen look a completely different team to last season. They press high up the pitch as a unit, the full-backs join the attack and Emmanuel-Thomas provides a platform for them to play off going forward as runners come from deep.
The best of all those things was in evidence in the first leg as they ripped through Hacken, and they put in a similar display for large spells of the opening half in Gothenburg.
However, defensively this week they looked far more shaky. In their keenness to win possession up the pitch, players dived into tackles which allowed Hacken to play into midfield at times, where there was too much room. McCrorie in particular was caught out by long balls into the channels.
And, when Emmanuel-Thomas departed early in the second half with a head injury, the attack suffered in his absence. His link-up play is crucial to bringing other players into the game, and Glass said post-match he should be fit for Sunday’s league opener.
Overall, though, Glass will be pleased to have negotiated a tricky tie, and will expect greater cohesion to come in time.
What they said
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass: “I don’t think it got to the stage of nervy but it was a bit more frantic at the end than we would have liked.
“We had chances in the first half that would’ve killed it. I think what you saw tonight was a Hacken team playing carefree – and any team playing like that can be dangerous.”
Aberdeen open their Scottish Premiership campaign at home to Dundee United on Sunday (15:00 BST) as they look to build on European progress.
- 15OlssonSubstituted forSverrissonat 76′minutes
- 17BerggrenSubstituted forMilovanovicat 80′minutes
- 11HeintzSubstituted forMaaroufat 80′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 16TraoreSubstituted forWalemarkat 45′minutesBooked at 71mins
- 9JeremejeffSubstituted forMohammedat 40′minutesBooked at 73mins
- 27Farah Shahin
- 1LewisBooked at 67mins
- 22RamsayBooked at 79minsSubstituted forGurrat 82′minutes
- 17HayesBooked at 54minsSubstituted forMacKenzieat 66′minutes
- 11HedgesBooked at 70minsSubstituted forGallagherat 83′minutesBooked at 76mins
- 16OjoSubstituted forMcLennanat 66′minutes
- 14Emmanuel-ThomasSubstituted forJenksat 50′minutes