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Match Preview | BK Hacken v Aberdeen
Competition: Europa Conference League second qualifying round, second leg.
Match: BK Hacken v Aberdeen
Venue: Bravida Arena
Kick Off: 17:30
TV Coverage: RedTV PPV GB & Ireland – To purchase a match pass, please click here. Rest of the world (excluding Sweden) – RedTV International please click here.
Stephen Glass sat down with the media, via Zoom, from the team hotel in Gothenburg to preview our game with BK Hacken. To watch in full on RedTV, please click here.
“We’ve got a mostly clean bill of health. Dean Campbell slipped in training so we’ve left him at home as a precaution ahead of the weekend, but otherwise we’ve got the nice problem of a fit squad all wanting to play, including having Declan Gallagher back from suspension.
“We’ve got a good group, we have international players, and it’s important that we use them wisely. We have good competition to play in the team, it’s important the players are rewarded when they perform, so I’ve got a decision to make on the team that starts on Thursday and I will do what I think is best for the club.
“Complacency isn’t the biggest danger in the game on Thursday – Häcken are. The boys are well aware of how good they are and the threat they can pose, so complacency won’t be an issue. We’ve addressed that from the moment we came off the pitch last Thursday night.
“There was an excitement level from playing in front of our fans last week, there was satisfaction about the way the boys performed. European nights are special, it was the first at Pittodrie like that for some of them, and there was immediately a hunger that they want more of the same again. The only way that happens is to come through the tie on Thursday night and go into the next round.
“It’s up to Häcken how they approach the game but I don’t think they see the tie as dead, based on what their manager said after the game, and neither do we. They’ll be thinking that if they can score an early goal or two, the game’s alive, so it’s up to us to make sure we look after our own business as we did in the first leg.
“We’re aware of their dangers, we’re aware of situations that can open up for us to create opportunities and score goals as well. If we do the right things at the right times, we’ll be ok, but we have to bring that level of performance on the night.
“We’ve set a standard. It’s about commitment and doing the right things. The players got their reward last Thursday for doing the right things in pre-season and in the game. You can do the right things and not get the reward, that happens in football, but for this tie, if our levels stay high, we should find ourselves through. From there, if we keep performing to that standard over the season, we will win a good number of games, that’s the aim.
“You will run into a train a few times, you’ll run into games where positive play doesn’t bear fruit, you’ll run into a team that scores goals they shouldn’t – that’s the nature of the game. But if we stay committed, if we keep our performance level, we will win a very decent number of games.
Changes to the Starting XI
“If I make six or seven changes, I’ll be accused of being complacent, which then bleeds into the players. I will pick the side that we as a staff think is best equipped to win the game on Thursday, with no thought for Sunday. If, within the game, we get to a position where we can start to look towards Sunday, then we’ll worry about that then. But when we start the game on Thursday, that game is the only thing we will be thinking about, winning that tie.
A Return to Gothenburg
“Neil Simpson is with us here and players have spoken to him about the game here in 1983. He was part of something unbelievably special, and the players know that. It’s not something we talk about as a group, but everybody is well aware of what happened here. It’s important we represent the club as well as we can while we are in this city.
“We have real respect for Häcken. Before the game I was very vocal about the fact they were a good team. Even though we won the game, they showed some of the threat they can offer and some of what they’re capable of. Going into Thursday night, we are very respectful of what they can do. They’ve got a good group, they have international players, a manager who has managed a number of international games in high profile tournaments. We know the first game was very successful for us, it was a great performance and result, but we’re only at half-time in the tie.
“Ever since I’ve come in, I’ve been delighted with how hard the players have worked. They’ve tried to do all we’ve asked of that. We brought in some new faces through the summer to add to what we had and we were delighted with what we saw in pre-season.
“There’s question marks among some because we didn’t go out and play games, but stayed within Cormack Park instead, but we believe we’ve prepared in the best way possible. Now we have to show it wasn’t a one-off last week.
“There’s a good youth academy here, a good pipeline of players, they’re aware of what it takes to play in this team, two of them showed that last week in Calvin Ramsay and Jack MacKenzie, then Connor McLennan is still relatively young too and he made a real impact from the bench. All of that showed the strength of the squad and the youth system here.
Jet and Christian Ramirez have fitted into the group really well, which is testament not just to them but to the other players as well and how easy they make it. Good characters, good players, they’re popular around the place, and they’ll be more popular still if their performance levels stay the same! I know that’s their aim as well.”
The Red Army
“It’s a shame we’ve no fans over here, I’m sure they would have looked forward to coming when the draw was made, but I’m sure we’ll have one or two who have managed to make their way here. We know the fans are supporting us from wherever they are and we hope we can give them what they want to see if they’re watching on RedTV.”
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Match Page - Text Commentary
Dons battle through in Europe
A game that Aberdeen might have had done and dusted in the first half slipped away from them in a feisty second period but over the tie, Aberdeen had done more than enough to deservedly see themselves through to the next round.
Following the 5-1 demolition of BK Häcken in the first leg, it was perhaps unsurprising that Stephen Glass named an unchanged starting XI as the Dons looked to finish the job in Gothenburg. Declan Gallagher had his first involvement with the club as one of the substitutes, Tom Ritchie also coming onto the bench as a third goalkeeper. Dean Campbell missed the trip with a minor groin injury.
In contrast, the hosts made five changes to their starting XI as they headed off in search of the big victory they needed to turn the tie around. Out went Sverisson, Walemark, Toivio, Friberg and Youssef to be replaced by Carlsson, Olsson, Faltsetas, Heintz and Traore.
Häcken made the swift start they needed and within the first minute, Bengtsson and Traore had both had shots at goal charged down just inside the Aberdeen box.
Sharp work from Heintz put himself into good space in the fifth minute and he shaped a shot around Joe Lewis but against the outside edge of the post from 14 yards out as the Swedes posed some early problems.
Nine minutes in and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas launched a drive at goal from 30 yards out, the ball stinging Abrahamsson’s palms as Aberdeen offered their first threat. Much like the game at Pittodrie, after a slightly torrid opening phase, the Dons began to exert better control of the game as we reached the quarter of an hour mark.
Christian Ramirez had a good chance on 20 minute, Emmanuel-Thomas and Funso Ojo combining well down the left to pull the ball back to Ramirez on the edge of the six-yard box, but he missed his kick as he tried to pivot on the ball.
More good play from the Dons almost earned a goal on 27 minutes. Scott Brown did well mopping up in midfield, winning the ball high up and interchanging passes with Emmanuel-Thomas before feeding Ryan Hedges. He cut into the box and found Emmanuel-Thomas again. He picked his way delicately past a couple of challenges before poking the ball at goal, Abrahamsson making a fine save to keep him out as the rain came teeming down. Does it always rain in Gothenburg?
Häcken heads were starting to drop as the scale of the job was getting bigger and bigger by the moment, Aberdeen having come through a tricky start to begin exerting real authority on the game. They might have had their first goal on 33 minutes, Ross McCrorie doing well to bring the ball out and find Emmanuel-Thomas. He slid a beautiful reverse ball in behind only for the goalkeeper to deny Ramirez as he chased onto it.
On 40 minutes, Mohammed was introduced to the fray by the home side, replacing the injured Jeremejeff as the hosts tried to find some way back into the tie, though that was looking a pretty forlorn hope for them by now as they began to look a beleaguered bunch.
Lewis Ferguson almost found a goal in added time, a lovely curling header from Jonny Hayes’ free-kick bound for the top corner before Abrahamsson clawed it away. From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper was less convincing as he fumbled a weak volley from Emmanuel-Thomas. At the break though, it was a very pleasing first 45 minutes for the Dons.
HALF-TIME: BK HÄCKEN 0 ABERDEEN 0
Walemark came on for Häcken at the break, replacing Traore. Twelve seconds into the second half, Emmanuel-Thomas was on the ground needing treatment after a clash of heads with Carlsson, before being replaced by Teddy Jenks on 50 minutes.
As the Dons were reorganising, they lost the ball 25 yards out to Olsson who played a quick one-two with Heintz on the edge of the box before slotting the ball across Lewis and just inside the far post before scampering after the ball and screaming at the crowd to get behind his side.
Hayes went in the book on 54 minutes, a poor decision as he tried to pull away from contact with Walemark who flew into the air as he saw the Irishman coming.
The Dons really should have equalised and killed the tie stone dead on 55 minutes, breaking swiftly from a Häcken corner, Jenks setting Ramirez away down the right. His cross was perfectly judged for Ojo running onto it but somehow, he failed to make contact with the goal gaping.
Lewis kept it at 1-0 with a brilliant save to his left on 59 minutes, Ekpolo having set up Mohammed 15 yards out, but the Aberdeen goalkeeper was equal to the task, tipping it round the post with a strong left hand. In the aftermath, Stephen Glass collected a yellow card from the referee.
Jack MacKenzie and Connor McLennan were the next substitutions for Aberdeen on 66 minutes, Ojo and Hayes replaced. Within a minute though, the Dons were in trouble, Bengtsson played through and clipped by Lewis, going down for the penalty, Lewis yellow carded. Bengtsson stepped up to take the spot kick, sent Lewis the wrong way and gave Häcken a sniff of a chance.
Walemark, who should have been booked five minutes earlier, finally got his yellow card on 70 minutes for a hack on MacKenzie, Hedges also booked in the aftermath. Walemark had completely lost his discipline by now and moments later, he lashed out with an elbow at MacKenzie and collected his second yellow card. Häcken coach Høgmo was booked for his protests, but it was a moment of real madness from Walemark with his team beginning to threaten.
Having got back into the tie, the home side were doing their best to toss it away again as Mohammed then went through Ferguson late and was booked too as the game went through a crazy few minutes. It got stranger still when Gallagher was booked while warming up on 76 minutes. Sverisson then replaced Olsson.
Ramsay was next into the book on 79 minutes, presumably for time wasting as he tried to take a corner. It was the final throw of the dice for Häcken on 80 minutes Maarouf and Milovanovic replacing Heintz and Berggren as the game degenerated into one stoppage after another. There was another two minutes later when Jack Gurr and Gallagher replaced Ramsay and Hedges.
We were back to the football on 87 minutes, Ferguson whipping a free-kick round the wall from 25 yards out, Abrahamsson flying across goal to tip the ball wide. The Dons were close again a minute later, MacKenzie’s deep free-kick reaching Ramirez at the back post. He flashed the ball through the six yard box, Considine inches away from getting the finishing touch.
Maarouf added his name to the referee’s report in added time as the hosts’ frustration built and the Dons edged towards the next round. Gurr had a sight of goal on 93 minutes, Abrahamsson pushing the ball to safety and protecting his clean sheet after his torrid evening the previous Thursday.
With that, the Dons were through a feisty evening and on their way to some more European nights.