Aberdeen were second best at Rugby Park as Kilmarnock eased to a deserved 2-0 win.
There was one change to the Aberdeen starting XI beaten 3-2 by PAOK on Thursday night, Duk coming in for Dante Polvara, who was on the bench.
Kilmarnock made one change to their side that beat Livingston 3-1 at Rugby Park last Saturday, former Don Matty Kennedy replacing Corrie Ndaba.
Killie made a lively start, Armstrong winning a corner in the second minute which came to nothing following Jamie’s McGrath’s clearing diving header at the near post. Watson then gave away two free-kicks in short order with really poor challenges on Graeme Shinnie and Stefan Gartenmann, but got away without being carded.
Kennedy had the first shot in anger after seven minutes, the ball dropping nicely for him 20 yards out, but his shot was straight down Kelle Roos’ throat, a comfortable save.
A Connor Barron free-kick from deep on the right reached Richard Jensen at the back post on the quarter hour, but Jensen failed to connect with his effort at goal. The flag then went up for offside anyway.
Watson had a golden opportunity two minutes later, Watkins pulling the ball back to him around the penalty spot. With only Roos to beat, Jensen and McGrath came across at the last second to get a crucial deflection on the shot that took it over the bar.
Bojan Miovski played a neat little pass in behind Kilmarnock on 20 minutes, but Findlay was every bit as quick as Duk on the chase and was able to snuff the danger out.
Kennedy wasn’t far away again on 24 minutes, a half cleared Kilmarnock corner falling for him on the edge of the area but his drive at goal was always rising just over the bar.
Dennis had to be quick off his line two minutes later to clear a long ball over the top that had Duk accelerating towards goal again, the Killie goalkeeper getting there just ahead of the Aberdeen striker.
Lyons was next to try his luck on 31 minutes, a Findlay flick on from a long throw reaching him 10 yards out at the back post, but he could only put his header straight into Roos’ gloves.
Another Killie free-kick into the box almost Polworth, stretching at the back post, the ball taken away from him by a vital header from Slobodan Rube i . From the resulting corner, Nicky Devlin got in a block that knocked the wind out of his sails, but the concern was for Roos who went down and required treatment before carrying on as we headed into the last five minutes of the half.
On 44, Duk gave away a soft free-kick on the right, Armstrong curling in an inviting cross but from four yards out, Wright headed wide at the back post, a real escape for the Dons. A minute later, Gartenmann was cautioned for a fairly innocuous foul on Vassell. Shinnie swiftly followed him into the book for making sure Kennedy didn’t get away on the break.
Four minutes into added time, Killie were in front. A long goal kick was flicked on and Armstrong beat Jack MacKenzie to the second ball which then carried through to Vassell. He cut inside and let loose a fierce early shot that went through Rube i ’s legs and beat Roos just inside the near post. A VAR check ensued for Armstrong’s challenge on MacKenzie, but the goal was given.
HALF-TIME: KILMARNOCK 1 ABERDEEN 0
Ryan Duncan was on for Aberdeen at the break, replacing MacKenzie as they went to a back four.
The Dons were on the attack in the opening minute, Miovski getting Duk on the run to the by-line, his fierce cross pushed away by Dennis at the near post. Kilmarnock were forced into a change early on with Wright injured and replaced by Deas on 51 minutes.
Kennedy wasn’t far from scoring a real goal of the season contender, a 30 yarder that Roos tipped over the bar, Kennedy given too much time and space, as was Watson from the resulting corner, heading wide at the back post. Dante Polvara and Leighton Clarkson came on immediately afterwards, Shinnie and Barron replaced.
Armstrong was next to try his luck from 30 yards, stinging Roos’ palms after McGrath gave the ball away just before the hour. Armstrong was closer still on 63 minutes, his curling shot thumping against the bar. Killie recycled the ball and got it back to Armstrong whose angled shot from the corner of the six yard box was pouched by Roos.
The second did arrive a minute later, Watkins charging down a clearance as Gartenmann took too long to clear his lines, the former Aberdeen man then able to tuck the ball past Roos from close range. It was Watkins’ last touch of the game, replaced by Donnelly before the Dons kicked off again, McKenzie also coming on for Polworth. On 71, Ester Sokler replaced McGrath.
Sokler had the Dons’ best chance of the afternoon on 76, Duk slinging the ball in from the left flank, Sokler coming onto it at the near post but directing his header wide from eight yards. Moments later, Devlin came driving through the middle, but his final pass to Miovski went awry. In the 81st minute, Kennedy had another pop from distance, Roos down to his left to save.
Lyons was booked on 85 minutes, charging into Miovski as he tried to spark an Aberdeen break from a Kilmarnock corner. Sokler was booked three minutes later for a frustrated looking barge on Findlay. Killie then brought on Dallas and Davies for Armstrong and Kennedy as they ran the clock down on a straightforward home win. A very disappointing performance from the Dons who never at any stage of the match got going.
5+1 minutes added at end 1st half.
4 minutes added at end 2nd half.