Aberdeen's hopes of advancing into the Europa League play-offs were frustrated once again, the Dons producing a fine disciplined performance in the Estádio José Alvalade but a strong Sporting side produced that one moment of quality when it mattered to grab the lead.
Following last Sunday's home defeat against Motherwell, Derek McInnes made three changes to his starting XI for the Europa League visit to Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. In came Tommie Hoban, Shay Logan and Dylan McGeouch with Scott Wright, Niall McGinn and Funso Ojo starting on the bench. Bruce Anderson and the injured Dean Campbell dropped out from Sunday's matchday squad as the bench was trimmed to seven players.
It was the Dons who threatened first, Ross McCrorie making a good interception and playing a sharp one-two with Marley Watkins before heading down the right flank and curling a cross through the area, Jonny Hayes unfortunate to be penalised for hand ball.
But the hosts grabbed an eighth minute lead, McCrorie dispossessed 30 yards out after a misunderstanding with McGeouch, allowing Vietto to thread a beautifully weighted pass to Tiago Tomás just inside the box and he despatched the ball past Joe Lewis with the minimum of fuss.
Aberdeen responded well to the early setback and won a 13th minute corner on the left. The ball was worked back to McGeouch 30 yards out and his curling cross was tipped over by a stretching Adán. From the second corner, Ash Taylor got on the end of the cross from Jonny Hayes but his header was straight at the goalkeeper.
Sporting then enjoyed a spell of neat possession but the Dons kept their shape well, Wendel eventually dragging a 25 yard effort across goal and well wide as he ran out of options and patience in the 17th minute.
Ryan Hedges, Lewis Ferguson and Hayes all combined well down the left to get the Irishman into the box three minutes later, but Hayes couldn't get enough on his shot and it was a simple gather for Adán at the near post. Most of the game was being played in the Lisbon half by now as Aberdeen were able to press their hosts back into their own territory.
McCrorie made a terrific break out on the half hour, covering 30 yards into Lisbon territory before he was hauled down by a lunging challenge from Vietto, for which he was rightly booked. The Dons were certainly asking questions in what was building into a very composed performance, though it wasn't helped by an overly fussy refereeing performance that saw any hint of a physical challenge being penalised.
Hedges was inches away from an equaliser in the 36th minute after Watkins had produced some great hold up play from a Hoban ball forward. Watkins' low cross into the box was just a fraction too strong for Hedges to get on the end of as he dashed into the box.
Lisbon finally enjoyed a better spell of possession, knocking the ball around and winning a couple of corners in quick succession. From the second, Lewis was called into smart action as the ball ricocheted through the box and on to Cabral five yards out, the skipper making a fabulous save from point blank range to keep the Dons alive in the 40th minute. Sporting kept the pressure on to win a couple more corners, that little passage of play ending with Cabral smashing the ball miles over the bar from 25 yards out.
All the same, the hosts were just beginning to find a bit of rhythm as the interval approached, penning Aberdeen in. But when the half-time whistle came, the scoreline certainly didn't reflect the balance of the play, the Dons having given every bit as good as they'd got, the sides separated by that one piece of quality from Vietto that opened them up.
HALF-TIME: SPORTING LISBON 1 ABERDEEN 0
Sporting started the second half sharply, Nunes away down the right but his cross was too close to Lewis who gathered easily. From there, the game struggled to find a pattern, but it was the hosts who were now enjoying the territorial advantage.
Tomás should have doubled the lead in the 56th minute, a free header from a Porro cross but from eight yards out, he ballooned the ball over the bar, a huge relief for the Dons. These were dangerous moments for Aberdeen as Lisbon began to turn the screw but again, the team shape remained solid and continued to frustrate their illustrious hosts.
The Dons finally got a chance on the break in the 62nd minute, the ball breaking for Hayes who drove forward into the box but he slashed at his shot and put it over the bar when a ball into the area might have been a better option.
Tomás was next in the book in the 64th minute for a nasty looking challenge on Ferguson. That was a reflection of the momentum shifting back towards the Dons again, but they couldn't quite chisel out that clear cut chance they needed as we headed into the final quarter of the game.
Cabral had another sight of goal in the 68th minute, but from ten yards out, he hacked his shot over the bar and into what would have been the crowd. That was the signal for Aberdeen's first change, McGeouch replaced by Wright as Derek McInnes reverted to the shape his side have played for the bulk of the season so far.
Wright made an early impression, sprinting away down the right only to be pulled down, the referee breaking with the habit of the evening and giving nothing despite a clear foul. Two minutes later though, after minimal contact from Hayes, Coates was off the high board and into the Olympic pool and he got his foul, much to Aberdeen's irritation.
Sporting made their first change in the 77th minute, Sporar on for Tomás, Ryan Edmondson on for Watkins four minutes later, Connor McLennan replacing Logan in the 83rd minute. Sporting then replaced Wendel with Bragança in the 86th minute to try and break things up as they looked to run the clock down.
The golden chance Aberdeen had been working all night for finally came in the 87th minute, a perfect pass from Wright finding Hedges on the edge of the box but after a great first touch, the Welsh international sliced his shot wide of goal. Sporting then brought on their third sub, Plata replacing Porro.
A free-kick in the last minute was floated into the box by Ferguson, Coates doing well to head it behind for a corner but Aberdeen could not manufacture another opportunity from the flag kick. With Sporting then taking the ball into the opposite corner, Ferguson collected a booking as his frustration got the better of him.
A valiant effort from the Dons, a performance that had everything except a goal, but in the end, it wasn't enough against a Sporting side that will cause plenty of sides problems across the rest of this season's Europa League competition.