Aberdeen fight back for Europa League draw with Hacken

Nicky Devlin netted his first Aberdeen goal as the Dons came from two goals down to seal a first-leg 2-2 draw against BK Hacken in their Europa League play-off in Gothenburg.

Bojan Miovski and former Livingston defender Devlin both finished brilliantly within the space of four minutes as Barry Robson’s side secured a crucial draw in the first leg of their Europa League play-off.

The Swedish champions led through an Amor Layouni goal and an Ibrahim Sadiq penalty, which came for a handball against Jack MacKenzie after a VAR review.

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - AUGUST 24: Aberdeen's Bojan Miovski celebrates after making it 2-1 during a UEFA Europa League Play-Off Round match between BK Hacken and Aberdeen at Bravida Arena, on August 24, 2023, in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image: Bojan Miovski (left) scored to spark Aberdeen’s fightback

But Aberdeen had created several good chances themselves and they quickly fought back in the final 15 minutes.

The Dons beat the same opponents 5-1 at Pittodrie two years ago and will be confident they can create opportunities in next Thursday’s return leg.

Returning to the city where the club beat Real Madrid in the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup final, Aberdeen caused Hacken problems early on by pressing high up the park and winning possession in dangerous areas.

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - AUGUST 24: BK Hacken's Ibrahim Sadiq celebrates after making it 2-0 during a UEFA Europa League Play-Off Round match between BK Hacken and Aberdeen at Bravida Arena, on August 24, 2023, in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image: Ibrahim Sadiq celebrates after making it 2-0

Graeme Shinnie had a shot saved and Dante Polvara had an effort blocked before being booked for a studs-up challenge that some referees might have punished further.

Kelle Roos stopped a shot from Sadiq before Aberdeen were caught exposed by one pass through their midfield in the 36th minute. Hacken had a four-against-two advantage and they worked it to Layouni to slot home.

Duk had a brilliant chance to level when Shinnie won the ball in front of the penalty box but the forward hit a weak effort straight at the goalkeeper.

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - AUGUST 24: Aberdeen players celebrate with Nicky Devlin after he makes it 2-2 during a UEFA Europa League Play-Off Round match between BK Hacken and Aberdeen at Bravida Arena, on August 24, 2023, in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image: Aberdeen players celebrate with Devlin after his equaliser

The Dons had two good chances early in the second half. Miovski struck a powerful effort after a poor clearance from Ryan Duncan’s cross but the goalkeeper stretched out his leg to stop.

Polvara then ran on to Miovski’s pass after a lengthy passing move from back to front but the midfielder leaned back and blazed over.

The hosts had a decent spell and Roos made two saves from headers while Devlin put in a good block.

But the pressure paid off at a corner. MacKenzie raised his hand as he appeared to react to a team-mate jumping towards him and the Slovakian referee decided the ball had made contact after numerous looks on the VAR screen. Sadiq converted the 69th-minute spot-kick.

Robson responded by sending on two debutants – New Zealand defender James McGarry and former St Mirren and Dundee United midfielder Jamie McGrath.

McGrath was involved in the first Aberdeen goal in the 75th minute as he rolled the ball back for Clarkson to cross. Miovski took an excellent couple of touches to set himself up for an equally good finish.

Miovski played an integral part in the equaliser, playing a brilliant one-two with Clarkson, then striding forward and playing in Devlin, who ran on to the pass and dinked the ball over the goalkeeper with his left foot.

The night nearly got even better for the travelling fans. Clarkson curled a stoppage-time free-kick just over after Hacken centre-back Johan Hammar was shown a second yellow card for clinically stopping Miovski.

McGrath’s celebrations were cut short after he converted a cross from Miovski before the North Macedonian was flagged offside, while Shinnie also fired just wide nine minutes into time added on.

Robson: We were gung-ho but I’d rather that than sit in

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson, speaking to RedTV: “First and foremost people need to realise they are a proper football team.

“I knew they were, I could tell by the players they moved on for a couple of million quid, and I know they have a very strong budget as well.

“I knew it was going to be a very difficult game for us.

“You could see us really pressing aggressively high and they are a really good side who can release the ball and get through you at times, and they did.

“We stayed brave with it and I thought the difference between the two halves was, when we get the pressing side right and actually started to handle the ball better…

“That’s what I said to them at half-time, all the things we work on every day with the ball, when they did that, and brought the two together, Hacken really struggled with us. We looked like a proper outfit.”

Robson added: “We are a work in progress but you can see the way we want to be and the speed we want to bring to the game, and the excitement.

“We were maybe a bit gung-ho and dangerous at times but I would rather do that than sit in.”

What’s next?

Aberdeen’s next Scottish Premiership match is on Sunday away to St Mirren. Kick-off 3pm.

They will then host Hacken for the second leg of their play-off on August 31. Kick-off 7.45pm.

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