Aberdeen produced a well-drilled, committed display full of endeavour and some moments of quality, to take Eintracht Frankfurt all the way to the wire before finally succumbing to defeat, giving a display which gives plenty of cause for optimism for the games to come in this Conference League group.
There were two changes from the Aberdeen side beaten 2-0 at Tynecastle on Saturday, Dante Polvara and Jack MacKenzie in for Duk and James McGarry, who started from the bench. Rhys Williams, Jack Milne and Or Dadia were also among the substitutes.
Frankfurt, roared on by a huge home support in their impressive stadium, were in possession from the off as the Dons looked to fall into a disciplined 5-4-1 shape.
It was Aberdeen who had the first half chance on eight minutes, a free-kick floated into the box creating a shooting chance that was blocked, the hosts quickly on the break, Nicky Devlin having to sprint back to tidy things up.
A minute later, Dina Ebimbe was played in on the blind side of MacKenzie, in front of the 3,000 strong travelling support. The two tangled as they chased the ball, and the referee pointed to the spot. Marmoush stepped up to send Kelle Roos the wrong way and buried the ball in the bottom corner for 1-0.
Marmoush was on the break again two minutes later, lightning quick, but Richard Jensen did well to keep pace with him and produce an important tackle just inside the area, enough to inspire those Dons fans into a chorus of “Stand Free” that briefly drowned out the home support.
There was a sliver of a chance for the Dons on 18 minutes, Bojan Miovski and Jamie McGrath combining on the edge of the Eintracht box, McGrath pulling his shot hurriedly wide of the target. A minute later, Miovski was down and needing lengthy treatment after Smolcic stamped on his ankle as he followed through on a clearance. Miovski was eventually able to continue.
The Dons were level on 22, a beautifully worked move finished off by Dante Polvara, his first goal for the club. Miovski gathered up a loose Frankfurt pass on halfway and brought the ball forward. He picked his moment to feed Devlin, galloping forward into the inside-right position. He took a touch, saw the run of Polvara and found it with a nicely weighted pass, Polvara controlling and then smashing the ball into the roof of the net from eight yards out. It was due reward, for when any opportunity to attack came, Aberdeen had already shown their willingness to break in numbers.
Eintracht’s Aaronson was the first name in the referee’s book on 25 minutes, hauling down Graeme Shinnie as the skipper tried to spark another Aberdeen move forward after intercepting a cross in his own penalty area.
Great defending from Stefan Gartenmann on 35 minutes was followed by an even better pass forward into the path of Miovski who went marauding into Eintracht territory before being forced off the ball. The Frankfurt captain Rode limped off after 38 minutes of his return from injury, Larsson on to replace him as the rain started to absolutely hose down.
Patient play from Frankfurt eventually allowed them to play a killer ball into Aaronson who got away to fire in a first time shot that Roos brilliantly saved to his right after 43 minutes. The offside flag went up for a marginal call, but Roos’ save was still essential given VAR might have thought otherwise.
Polvara was a threat again on 45 minutes, collecting a Gartenmann throw into him at the near post turning and stabbing a shot goal wards, Trapp saving comfortably as we headed into four minutes of added time.
HALF-TIME: EINTRACHT FRANKFURT 1 ABERDEEN 1
Eintracht made two changes at the break, Chaibi and Ngankam replacing Götze and Aaronson, a reflection on how well the Dons had managed to discomfort their hosts over the first 45 minutes.
The Dons continued to look well disciplined through the opening exchanges of the second half and after 56 minutes, they made their first change, Miovski replaced by Duk as Barry Robson looked for some fresh legs to plough the lone furrow up front. Eintracht were clearly getting frustrated, but it was equally clear that the game remained on a knife edge with the quality the German side had at their disposal.
They showed that on 61, a ball hoisted to the back post seeing Chaibi head the ball across goal, headed for the net until Gartenmann turned it behind. But from Chaibi’s corner, the home side were back in front, Koch getting away from his marker at the near post and glancing a powerful, perfectly placed header across goal and into the far corner.
Eintracht sensed their moment and a sweeping move forward ended with Larsson unleashing a howitzer from nearly 30 yards, Roos only able to turn it round the post after 63 minutes. Gartenmann was booked for a foul earlier on in the move. Another corner was won almost immediately as Frankfurt looked to turn the screw, Roos ending the danger with a commanding take from the ball into the box. Moments later, a last ditch tackle from Devlin was needed to avert the danger from a Ngankam run as the Dons held on.
On 68, Nkounkou was replaced by Knauff. Jonny Hayes, Ryan Duncan and Connor Barron all came on for the Dons three minutes later, Clarkson, Polvara and Shinnie replaced.
Aberdeen got forward to win a corner on 76 minutes, Jensen heading over under pressure as he got on the end of Duncan’s cross. A minute later, Roos had to be sharp to get down and snaffle a shot from Knauff that looked bound for the bottom corner. Ester Sokler then came on to replace McGrath, Aberdeen’s final change. Eintracht responded on 82, Marmoush replaced by Buta, a defender for a striker, evidence that the home side were happy to hold what they had across the closing stages.
The Dons certainly penned Frankfurt into their own half and that big chance finally came three minutes into added time, a recycled free-kick coming to the back post where Sokler was in space, but his volley back across goal had ferocity but not enough accuracy and it flashed wide of the target.
Seconds later, Duk was on the run down the left, getting enough space to spear a cross through the box, but it was agonisingly behind the advancing Sokler and was cleared to safety. With that, the game was up.
4 minutes added at end 1st half
5 minutes added at end 2nd half