Aberdeen 0 Rijeka 2: Horror show as Dons’ dream quickly turns into nightmare

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Had this been an accident, a police officer would have instructed Aberdeen supporters to “move along now; nothing to see here”.

Two goals down and reduced to 10 men before the interval, it meant Derek McInnes’ pre-match rallying call to their fans to cheer his team towards some kind of miracle in overturning their 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Rijeka, sounded rather hollow.

In the end, they were filleted by a smarter outfit in what was Aberdeen’s biggest aggregate defeat in Europe since their loss to Sigma Olomouc, of the Czech Republic, a decade ago.

It became clear within minutes when they went one behind and lost Funso Ojo to a second yellow card midway through the opening 45 minutes, followed by a sickening second goal, that their dream of moving forward in the competition had turned into a nightmare.

“It was a poor start from us,” McInnes conceded. “We looked too edgy and didn’t keep the ball well enough. Our difficulties were compounded by going down to 10 men.

“It was such a poor refereeing performance. It’s unusual to see a red card after 20 minutes. I saw some tackles from our opponents and it wasn’t even a yellow card. I found it really bizarre how he can show Funso a red card in that situation.”

If McInnes had hoped he would wrong-foot his Rijeka counterpart, Igor Biscan, with his pre-match media manipulation as he insisted star striker Sam Cosgrove would not play because of a hamstring injury, he was misguided. Cosgrove lasted just 53 minutes before Curtis Main replaced him.

McInnes’ warnings of the potential for being hit by a sucker punch on the counter, fell on deaf ears with the hosts succumbing to the swiftness of Rijeka’s ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

Niall McGinn’s corner on the left was cleared to Ghana wing-back Maxwell Acosty and his clever pass to Zoran Kvrzic was quickly sent on to Stjepan Loncar . His flick easily beat Reds’ keeper Joe Lewis with 10 minutes played. The tie had been won there and then.

Yet, there was worse to come for the Pittodrie team 10 minutes later as the Austrian referee reached for a second yellow card for Ojo following his foul on Luka Capan.

The other wheels came off the wagon in a similar manoeuvre from Rijeka in the 33rd minute as McGinn’s free-kick once more ended up with Acosty and when Kvrzic’s ball came into the area, Antonio Colak’s downward header beat Lewis.

Minutes later, McGinn made way for Dean Campbell, but the mountain was already too big to scale.

Aside from a useful-looking strike by midfielder Ryan Hedges seconds from the break, Aberdeen did not trouble the Rijeka goalkeeper, Andrej Prskalo, and there were no positive talking points for the Dons fans, most of whom departed long before the end.

Rijeka manager Igor Biscan admitted the game was more like a training match for his slick side after the sending-off and that the Dons’ eagerness to make up for lost ground from the first leg was their undoing.

“This is what happens in games like this,” he said. “You have great desire, but that desire can sometimes take you in the wrong direction.

“Of course the red card to Ojo was a big decision by the referee as well. But it helped us.

“We had a quiet second half but, overall, we deserved to go through.”

Damning social media messages from the home support will continue for the remainder of the week.

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