ABERDEEN V CS FOLA ESCH
The Dons lined up with a couple of new faces making their debuts. Jayden Stockley started up front with Joe Lewis in goal. There were also two new boys on the bench with Neil Alexander and Anthony O'Connor coming into the squad.
Aberdeen were given something to think about in the opening stages when Fola Esch nearly opened the scoring with their first move of the match. Kenny McLean lost possession in the middle of the pitch and Mehdi Kirch bombed forward with options on either side. He passed his way through the Dons defence with a great little move but he grazed the post with his shot. It was something of a let off for Aberdeen as the visitors looked to show they were no pushovers.
The Dons first attempt on goal came when Jonny Hayes floated a long ball into the box. Shay Logan was arriving at the back post but couldn't quite reach the cross with his head. Kenny McLean's follow up effort from outside the box was held easily by Thomas Hym.
Aberdeen looked to be playing a patient game without rushing into any shots. 20 minutes in and Logan played a nice ball to the back post. Stockley's downward header landed at the feet of Ryan Jack who couldn't quite position himself for a shot. Jonny Hayes gathered the rebound and tried to weave his way through the defence, but his cutback was ineffective, failing to find a man in red.
The Dons were denied the opener after 25 minutes when Ash Taylor had the ball in the back of the net. Hayes had swung the free kick into the back post area, however the linesman had flagged that the ball was out of play and awarded a goal kick. TV replays show the goal should have stood, Stockley was still in play when he knocked the ball back.
It was a real tussle in the middle of the pitch throughout most of the first half. Willo Flood and Ryan Jack had to work hard with the tackles flying in. Kenny McLean went through the wars taking plenty of hits. Fola Esch were working hard to put the Dons off their stride and looked very organised at the back.
Niall McGinn was slowly starting to come more into the game as the half wore on. As half time drew nearer McGinn went on a mazy run starting in his own half. His effort from 18 yards lacked power and was no trouble for Hym. That was to be the last action of the first half, a half in which the visitors deserve a lot of credit.
HT ABERDEEN FC 0 - 0 CS FOLA ESCH
Aberdeen started the second half brightly with a couple of set piece chances. Hayes' corner was beautifully weighted, Ash Taylor's header looked certain to be going in but was kept out by a last ditch clearance on the goal-line. Kenny McLean then hit a free kick from 30 yards which was a good bit over the crossbar. Minutes later Hayes struck a free kick from a similar position but Hym dived well to his right to push the ball to safety.
After 10 minutes of the second half Derek McInnes made what turned out to be his only change of the match. It was a positive move from the boss opting to take off midfielder WIllo Flood for striker Adam Rooney who made his first appearance since recovering from his long term injury which kept him out of the majority of the second half of last season.
Rooney was played in through on goal seconds after getting on the pitch after a great ball by McLean. He very nearly scored but the keeper just got the ball ahead of Adam. The Irishman certainly looked hungry for a goal and was already having an impact on what was now a tiring Fola Esch defence.
Despite plenty of attempts on goal the Dons were struggling to find the crucial opening with the ball frequently just missing a red jersey inside the area. When Aberdeen did get a shot on target there was always a defender on hand to make a block or the keeper would keep it out.
Then when Jayden Stockley's brilliant overhead kick from inside the box was tipped over by Hym you started to wonder if it was going to be one of those night. The keeper had a number of good saves. He also made a couple of mistakes but his defenders bailed him out.
Fola Esch were sitting deep in their own half and as the Dons tried to lift the tempo the game became more stretched which suited the Dons. However after holding out for an hour Fola had given themselves the best possible chance of taking something into the return leg and they were starting to believe they could get a positive result.
However Aberdeen then won a corner in the 68th minute. Hayes' tempting ball was met by Stockley and headed back across goal. The Dons then competed for a couple of headers before the ball finally landed kindly for an Aberdeen player and the boot of Shay Logan fired home from close range. It was an acrobatic effort followed by the usual acrobatic celebration from Shay. The deadlock had finally been broken. Aberdeen 1 - 0 CS Fola Esch (Logan, 68)
Stockley had a couple of great knockdowns and his ability in the air will certainly lead to goals this season.
The Red Army sensed more goals were on the way, and they were right. Unfortunately the next goal came just a couple of minutes afterwards and it went the way of the visitors. A short corner gave Emmanuel Francoise, who was quality all night, the chance to run at the Dons defence. He cut it back to Julien Klein and the captain rifled the ball past Joe Lewis. Pittodrie fell silent. Aberdeen 1 - 1 CS Fola Esch.
After staring to tire the visitors suddenly had their second wind and for a five minute spell looked very dangerous.
Aberdeen had to work very hard to get back the momentum. Ash Taylor almost scored a screamer but his volley from the edge of the area whistled just over the bar. It could not have been far away. With 10 minutes to go, again, Ash Taylor had the ball in the net from a corner. Again, it was disallowed. All sides of the ground looked confused as to why the goal hadn't stood. Again TV replays show the goal should have counted as the Dons centre half had won a clean header.
With one final push for a winner Aberdeen piled forward. Niall McGinn decided to take matters into his own hands after picking up the ball from Hayes on the left. After beating his man and making his way into the box, McGinn's shot made its way through a number of bodies into the net. Pittodrie erupted, but the celebrations were halted again when - for a third time - the linesman's flag was raised. This time most of the Dons team sprinted over to the officials, adamant that the goal should stand. After consulting with his far side assistant referee, referee Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen put the Red Army out of their misery by pointing to the centre circle. The Dons were back in front. Aberdeen 2 - 1 CS Fola Esch. (McGinn, 90+3).
The referee correctly overruled his linesman as it was a Fola defender who touched the ball into the net.
It would have been easy for Aberdeen to settle for a 2 - 1 lead, but a good quick move from a corner led to Hayes getting some space and he won a penalty kick after a hand ball inside the box. This gave Adam Rooney the chance to add a third from the spot. As expected, Rooney was clinical, sending Hym the wrong way. A frantic finish to the match but a deserved scoreline in the end. Aberdeen 3 - 1 CS Fola Esch (Rooney, 90+7)
The Dons now go to Luxemburg looking to build on tonight's performance. Huge credit to players for sticking to their task against a very determined and capable side.
FT ABERDEEN FC 3 - 1 CS FOLA ESCH