FK Qarabag 1 Aberdeen 0: Dons fall to defeat in Baku as Considine stretchered off

IT was a case of fever pitch. Sweltering heat combined with an appalling surface and some questionable refereeing all conspired to a narrow loss for Aberdeen in Baku.

The Dons braced the 2,500-mile trip to Azerbaijan but were left with a largely forgettable evening’s work as FK Qarabag snatched a slender 1-0 victory to take into the return leg at Pittodrie.

It wasn’t for the lack of trying, but there was very little in the way of attacking from Stephen Glass’ side who were pinned back for the majority of the match.

But given the odds were against them in unfamiliar 30-degree heat and surroundings the Dons will be pleased to leave very much still in the tie.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack was vocal in his criticism of the surface at the Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium ahead of the match with Qarabag manager Gurban Gurbanov even admitting it wasn’t fit for a Europa Conference League qualifier.

But from kick-off it was clear the pitch was much more suited to the hosts as they grabbed a stronghold in the opening exchanges.

Abdellah Zoubir fired a warning shot to the Dons after just six minutes as he fired a powerful drive towards the Dons goal, with Joe Lewis forced to palm it clear for a corner.

The start to proceedings will have been disappointing for Glass, but much more concerning was when Andy Considine fell to the ground clutching his left knee inside ten minutes.

The defender, a stalwart in the Dons defence, went down under a forceful shoulder barge twisting his knee in the process as his studs held up in the grass.

Considine looked in serious pain and was carried off the park in a stretcher with all signs pointing to a lengthy spell out of action.

Aberdeen’s night was only worsened on the half-hour as Spaniard Jaime Romero put the hosts ahead with a low strike into the bottom corner.

The winger collected the ball just inside the box before shifting the ball onto his left and rifling past Lewis with the help of a bobble from the pitch as it bounced into the near corner.

From the moment Qarabag went in-front it was all the more difficult for the Dons to try and fight their way into the match. Dons skipper Scott Brown was just one of a number of players to speak with referee Rade Obrenovic at the lack of decisive action after some fierce tackles from the hosts.

The ref was similarly challenged by the animated home players expectant of the award of a foul for a number of instances, as the hosts kept the match under control with some expert gamesmanship.

It was clever manipulation of play and never-ending attempts to rile up the Dons players who grew more and more agitated at a number of decisions as the match wore on.

Connor McLennan’s introduction for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas at half-time did provide a much-needed injection of pace at the top end of the park. But in truth it never looked like happening for the visitors.

In fact, it took until the 85th minute for Aberdeen’s first proper sight at goal as Christian Ramirez latched onto the ball but snatched at his shot as it was easily gathered.

Lewis had to be smart to prevent a second goal for Qarabag in stoppage time as he rushed out to stop Marko Vešović’s late effort.

Lewis Ferguson, who endured a brutal shift in the midfield from constant running and taking a few rough knocks, had a final chance five minutes into additional time but his free-kick summed up everything about Aberdeen after a gruelling shift; tired and easy to deal with for the hosts.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992