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UEFA EL 3rd QR 1st Leg | Preview
“The flight across was not a problem, the majority of the players slept through. We have tried to keep the players on UK time and the majority have managed to do this. Since we landed, we managed to get a couple of hours rest, so there have been absolutely no issues regarding sleep. We landed about the same time we would for our other European games and the players are now well used to the routine.
“The heat is not an issue either. Every game has different circumstances but it is still just another football match to play and get a positive result. Once the game starts, we will be ready regardless of the travelling time or the time differences. The players are all very excited and looking forward to the match, as are we all.
“Mark Reynolds is obviously out and will still be out for a few weeks. There are a couple of other doubts for the game, but nobody else is ruled out at this stage.
“I know they will be missing Gerard Gohou and he is a good player, he has been influential for them, but they have plenty of good players who have done well recently and that has helped them get to the top of the league. They are not just dependent on one player, so with the size of squad they have, and with the quality they have in there, they will have an able replacement.
“We feel we know all we need to know about them. We have studied them very closely since we got through last week and my scouts and some of the staff have been preparing for this game for a while now, while me and the other coaches have been preparing fully since we got through last Thursday. They are a team who are playing with a lot of confidence and have a lot of quality, but we feel it is a tie we can win.
“Getting an away goal is always an important part of the tie. We talk about it quite a bit and we realise the importance of it. In all the away games over the last couple of seasons we have managed to score an away goal apart from against Real Sociedad, and that was the one tie we lost.
“The most important thing is that at the end of the 90 minutes tomorrow night, we give ourselves a chance to go through when we play at Pittodrie. I think it will take a strong performance for us to be able to do that and it will take a strong performance from us in both legs if we are to get through because we have a lot of respect for them.
“We have done our homework on the opposition. As always, the manager has been very thorough in his preparation. We know it is going to be a difficult game and that we are going to have to be at our best and need to put in a good performance to get the right result here. They are a good side but then there are no easy games at this stage of the competition.
“It is a long journey, but the club have done the right thing by us. They arranged for the team to travel out a bit earlier so that we could adjust and get used to the conditions. The club also put a good plane on for us so most of the players managed to get some sleep. If we continue to prepare properly, and we will do, then it really is not an issue.
“I don’t think the time difference gives either team an advantage. Kairat need to come to Aberdeen next week so it will be the same for them. There are two good teams playing in this tie, and the team that goes through will be the one that plays the better football over two games.
“At the end of the day, we are professionals and this is just another game that we need to prepare for. The fact that we have travelled a bit further is no big deal.
“Like all the players, I am really enjoying the European run. I did not get to play in many of the games last season so I am thriving on it. Every player wants to play in big games on the big stage.
“Our goal in Europe this season was to just keep on improving. We are all in good spirits and the confidence is high after what we have achieved so far.”
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McLean nets vital away goal
Despite taking HNK Rijeka’s seeding for this round there was a real recognition that this would be another tough tie. The bookies made Kairat favourites for the match which was understandable given that they sit at the top of the Kazakh league table.
Kairat’s season is well underway having already played 22 matches conceding just 14 goals. The home side have been prolific in front of goal too scoring 44 goals but would be without their top goal scorer for this match, Gerard Gohou.
The Ivorian striker has already netted 18 league goals this season and has also been on form in the Europa League scoring 3 goals in 4 matches. Without him in the side Kairat were undoubtedly weaker but still had plenty of quality to cause The Dons problems. Djordje Despotovic looked like carrying the main attacking threat after getting his name on the score sheet twice in Almaty’s last match.
After such an outstanding performance in the last European away match against HNK Rijeka it was little surprise that Derek McInnes chose to go with the same side for this match in Almaty. The Dons also had to deal with the unusual challenge of dealing with the five hour time difference that came with the longest ever journey for a Scottish club in Europe.
Ward, who was instrumental in helping Aberdeen to a clean sheet in Croatia, retained his place between the sticks. Hayes and Logan were tasked with providing the width again with a back three of Quinn, Considine and Taylor out to protect Ward.
In midfield Jack paired up with Shinnie just in front of the defence, their ability to keep hold of the ball would no doubt provide crucial with the home side again expected to dominate possession.
Pawlett and McGinn started just in front of them and would carry a lot of defensive responsibility in addition to having to support Goodwillie in attack. The striker has seemed to enjoy a new lease of life since the start of the season but had another hard shift in front of him in Almaty.
Incredibly almost 100 Aberdeen fans made the journey from all over the globe. The Red Army occupied a corner of the stadium in what was almost a capacity crowd. The home crowd perhaps lacked the co-ordination of Rijeka’s Armada but there was still a great atmosphere and a real sense of occasion inside the ground as kick-off approached.
As is to be expected in Europe the home side started with a high tempo and moved the ball about well as Aberdeen tried to find their feet.
After 7 minutes a loose ball from Goodwillie allowed Tymoschuk to intercept from a throw in, the Ukrainian played in Despotovic who was brought down by Quinn 25 yards goal. The Serbian decided to hit the free-kick but thankfully the wall did it’s job.
Up the other end Goodwillie tested Plotnikov in the Kairat goal with a curling strike from outside the area but in the end it was a comfortable save for the keeper.
After 13 minutes the home side were in front after unpicking The Dons defence with a sublime passing move. Kairat waited for the right moment before Bakayev sped on to the end of a lay-off just inside the box before firing past Ward. There will no doubt have been disappointment at conceding the goal but on this occasion it
In the 20th minute Aberdeen won possession in midfield and set off on the counter-attack with Logan playing a ball down the channel for McGinn, Niall chose to float in a cross to the back post for Hayes who was unable to get over the header under pressure from a Kairat defender.
In the 22nd minute The Dons invited the captain Islamkhan to shoot from 35 yards and he sent an unstoppable strike past Ward. It was a bitter blow for Aberdeen who had just looked as if they were beginning to cause some problems of their own with the pace of Hayes, Pawlett and McGinn.
With just a quarter of the game gone The Dons had been undone by two sublime goals but had shown that they were capable of grabbing an all-important away goal, that now had to be the aim.
In the 26th minute the Kairat keeper was put under some pressure when McGinn fired in a free-kick from a wide area. Plotnikov flapped at the cross and conceded a corner but The Dons must have taken some encouragement from his attempt to deal with the initial cross.
The home side had certainly been pretty aggressive with their pressing out of possession so there was every chance that The Dons would get the chance to test the keeper further from set-piece situations as the match progressed.
After half an hour a free-kick was whipped into the Kairat area from deep and eventually fell to Taylor at the edge of the area, he attempted to get the ball back towards goal and there was a claim for handball but nothing was given.
In the 33rd minute Tymoschuk, inspired by Islamkhan’s effort had a go from 35 yards but his effort was deflected wide. Ward got up well to claim the corner and take any pressure off The Dons.
After 38 minutes McGinn took up another great position on the right of the box, his low cross was partially cleared before the ball rebounded off Pawlett and just wide of the post. The Dons followed that up with another attack as Considine got on the end of a cross from Logan, his defender had the sting taken out of it by a deflection and was easy for the keeper to gather.
Considine was now getting further forward with Hayes pushing on as The Dons looked for an away goal.
Some trickery from the Brazilian playmaker Barboza got the crowd excited again and created an opening for Kairat but he was forced wide enough to see a shot deflected wide. There was still time for Kairat to have one more attack before half-time as Islamkhan played in Despotovic who was foiled by an excellent diving
The openings were there for The Dons and they would have had plenty of encouragement going into the second half, shortly before the half-time whistle Plotnikov fumbled another cross and certainly looked like a weak point that could be exploited.
On the balance of play Aberdeen probably felt unfortunate to be behind by two goals but both goals were of real quality and would have been difficult for most sides to do anything about.
Rooney replaced Pawlett at half-time and joined Goodwillie up front. Pawlett had looked sharp at times in the first half but with The Dons chasing a goal he was sacrificed for last season’s top scorer with it now looking likely that Aberdeen would adopt a more direct style of play.
With a two goal lead Kairat adopted a deeper position and surrendered most of the possession at the start of the second half which offered the visitors the chance to move the ball around without really threatening in the final third.
The jeers rang out around the stadium as Aberdeen continued to dominate possession, despite the dominance the only time that Plotnikov had to touch the ball in the first 10 minutes was when a cross from Hayes was deflected towards his goal.
In the 58th minute Hayes won a corner which was worked short before being floated into the box, a deflection took it away from Taylor before his near post cross was cleared by Tymoschuk.
Up the other end it looked like Kairat were on their way to a third when Barboza showed some great skill to go past Taylor and into the box, Ward had to be at his best to stop his powerful strike from 10 yards. The goalie got a good glove to the ball to deflect it over the bar. The Brazilian was obviously a favourite of the fans and looked capable of producing the type of magic that could cut any defence open.
After 64 minutes the Brazilian chose to play in one of his teammates but had to watch on as the ball was dragged wide of the post. Ward narrowed the angle but it was a real opportunity once again for Kairat.
McLean replaced Goodwillie as The Dons looked to gain a bit more control of the game after a shaky 10 minute spell.
The former St Mirren man made an immediate impact as he got on the end of a deflected cut-back from McGinn and made no mistake to fire the ball past Plotnikov from 12 yards. Hayes had done well initially to get down the line and find McGinn but McLean was there to make it count.
Spurred on by that goal Hayes tore the defence apart with another driving run but was this time unable to find a red shirt with the cross.
Kairat burst up the other end in the 71st minute and looked to have won back a two goal lead but despite the stadium goal music playing the powerful strike from Lunin only found the side of the net.
It was a let off for Aberdeen but meant that they had a real foundation to build on going into the final 20 minutes of the match.
The home side started to dominate possession again as they went in search of a third goal, at this stage taking a 2-1 defeat and an away goal back to Pittodrie looked like a good result. With 10 minutes remaining the ball fell for Serginho just outside the area but his strike ended up going well over the bar.
In the 83rd minute Jack committed a foul on Serginho 25 yards from goal who grabbed the ball with his sights set on goal. The Brazilian looked to have found the back of the net with Ward at full stretch but his curling effort ended up just over the bar.
With just over 5 minutes of normal time remaining Robson replaced Quinn. The change meant that Considine went into the middle of defence alongside Taylor with Shinnie at left back.
Robson’s first act was to commit a foul 35 yards from goal with Kairat immediately eyeing up another direct strike at goal. Serginho instead chose to backheel the ball to Barboza who took the strike at goal which ended up well over the bar.
Kairat were still looking for a third goal and had the quality around the box to make that a real possibility. However, The Dons also have plenty of quality going forward and after McGinn got on the end of a flick on from Rooney he played a tempting ball across goal, unfortunately McLean was unable to shake off his marker and prodded wide under pressure.
As the match entered stoppage time Serginho curled another great strike towards the back post but Ward done well to tip it round the post. From the corner Kairat hit the bar and at the end of the match 2-1 felt like a really good result for The Dons.
Aberdeen now face a trip to Tannadice on Sunday before resuming this tie at Pittodrie next Thursday night. Kairat showed their quality on the night but Derek McInnes will have seen enough from his side to know that The Dons have a real chance of overturning the deficit at Pittodrie.