It was another bitterly disappointing afternoon for the Red Army at Hampden as United came from behind the beat the Dons. Although Aberdeen's performance was not great, they created enough chances to win the game but failure to take them plus some poor defending was to prove costly. Referee Steven McLean was also in the limelight after having to make some big calls.
The first half was a quiet nervous affair, played on a dreadful surface.
The second half was a lot better and burst into life when debutant Donervorn Daniels headed home. The WBA defender had a very impressive 90 minutes. After that the Dons had chances and a shot cleared off the line as they looked to kill the game. However on the hour mark poor defending from a corner allowed Morris to head home.
To their credit Aberdeen came back strongly and five minutes later they thought they had regained the lead when Adam Rooney headed home from a corner but the referee disallowed the goal. After that the match was end to end - Reynolds had to clear a Dow effort off the line and Goodwillie headed over. With just under ten minutes to go it was United who scored the winner after more poor defending allowed Ciftci to score. Aberdeen never looked like getting back into the game after that.
This was the Dons sixth straight defeat at the National Stadium. Aberdeen will have to concentrate on the League now.
Derek McInnes handed loan signing Donervorn Daniels his debut this afternoon at Hampden. The Dons lined up with Brown in goal, Logan at right back with Daniels and Reynolds in central defence and Considine at left back. Jack and Hayes were the sitting midfielders with McGinn, Pawlett and Rooney ahead of them and Goodwillie up top.
In the first minute Considine put over a good cross which Cierzniak claimed. In the first couple of minutes Daniels also got a good early touch which would have settled him down and then he made a good block on Ciftci at the edge of the area. The first chance of the game fell to Mackay-Steven but from a tight angle he blasted over after a simple ball over the top. The Dons won the first corner of the game on 4 minutes. They then won a second corner but United dealt well with the high balls into the box.
On 7 minutes a great ball over the top by Reynolds put Goodwillie through down the left. Cierzniak had raced off his line and was caught in no man's land. Callum Morris though did very well to hold Goodwillie up and shepherd him to safety. Niall McGinn then put over a dangerous cross from the left and then Hayes won the Dons a corner also by going down the left flank but the rehearsed set piece move never came to anything.
The game had quite a slow tempo in the early stages as both teams settled into proceedings. Derek McInnes certainly would not have been unhappy with the way his team had started, particularly his defence. On 12 minutes the Dons forced another corner down the left but Daniels fouled the keeper. A few minutes later they Goodwillie found space down the right and won yet another corner which the keeper came and claimed again. Aberdeen would have expected to have put more pressure on from the corners.
On 16 minutes Armstrong picked the ball up about 25 yards out. He played a one two which he curled towards the top left hand corner. The ball was deflected out of the reach of Brown but clipped the top of the bar and went out for a corner. A warning for the Dons.
Understandably there was a nervousness about the play of both teams in the opening 20 minutes. No one was trying to be too inventive in case they made a mistake.
On 24 minutes Daniels cut out a dangerous cross. The ball though fell straight to Armstrong and the Dons' on loan defender did extremely well to get out and make a very good block. Ciftci then tested Brown but the keepers handling was good.
On 28 minutes Pawlett burst clear, the first time he had found some space. He played it wide to McGinn who got himself in a dangerous position but his low cross was frustratingly cut out. From the resulting corner, it was a better one this time and the ball was nodded back across goal by Considine and Daniels was not far away from it. A free kick was then played low to Pawlett but he could not get his shot away.
The newly laid Hampden surface was beginning to cut up badly, particularly in the goal mouth areas.
On 34 minutes a vital interception from Andrew Considine as United tried to hit on the break. Then Aberdeen enjoyed a good spell of possession as Ryan Jack started to take control of proceedings.
On 38 minutes the Dons won another corner down the left. Again though the United defence were able to head clear without any real pressure. On 39 minutes the first real chance for the Dons. McGinn burst forward and got to the by-line. The ball was cut back to Pawlett on the edge of the six yard box but he could not get a shot away. The ball then fell kindly to Goodwillie but United captain Sean Dillon managed to get out and made a great block. On 41 minutes yet another corner for the Dons. The ball came back out to Jack who picked out Daniels but his shot was always going well over.
Just on the stroke of half time Rooney played a neat lay off for Pawlett. Peter played a clever first time ball over the top to release Goodwillie but again the ball got caught up in his feet because of the poor pitch and he could not get shot away.
Whilst the first half was not the greatest 45, the second period was a very entertaining.
Aberdeen camped themselves in the United half at the start of the half and they got what many people were predicting would be the vital first goal. Andrew Considine took a long throw, it was flicked on by Daniels and his header looped into the far corner of the net. It was an excellent header from the big defender who had a very good game.
United had the ball in the net within a minute of the goal but an early flag was up for offside.
The Aberdeen support had come to life and spurred the Dons on. For the next ten minutes they dominated and had some real chances. On 52 minutes Aberdeen very very nearly grabbed a second. A corner was swung in by Hayes. It was a very good ball which the keeper missed. Considine knocked it goalwards and it looked like it was David Goodwillie who was going to score but the ball was agonisingly cleared off the line. It even looked at the time as if the ball was over the line.
Then another chance. Goodwillie got in between the goalkeeper and the last defender. He was pushed wide though and was at a very tight angle so decided not to shoot. He checked back but the support was slow in getting to him and the chance was lost. In hindsight he might have been better trying a shot. On 57 minutes Rooney and Pawlett linked up well. Peter hit a good shot across the keeper but Cierniak had his angles right.
United made the first substitution of the afternoon. Telfer came off and he was replaced by Ryan Dow who forced a corner with virtually his first touch on the hour mark. The ball was played into the six yard box, Brown was unable to come and collect and Morris headed the ball home from close range to equalise. The Dons could easily have been 2-0 up, now they were level.
Despite the disappointment of losing the goal the Aberdeen players did not panic and kept up the pressure.
On 64 minutes a corner broke to Daniels and his powerful shot was deflected behind. The ball sat up nicely for him and it was a chance. More encouragingly though the Dons were look far more dangerous from set pieces. From the next resulting corner a major moment of controversy. Rooney headed home and everyone though the Dons had levelled but referee Steven McLean blew his whistle for a free kick. The Aberdeen players looked less than happy with the decision. The Dundee United players had not appealed for anything.
Cifci became the first player to booked on 65 minutes for clipping Hayes' heels.
The match was now end to end and a very good spectacle. On 71 minutes some incisive passing on the edge of the area opened up space for McGinn. He cut the ball back to Jack who did not get hold of his shot as well as he would have liked but still forced a very good save from the United keeper who tipped the ball over the bar. It was a great chance, which Ryan seemed to hit with the top of his foot. Either side of the keeper and it was a goal. From the next corner United broke at pace and the Dons were in real trouble as red jerseys desperately tried to get back. It took Shay Logan to make a brilliant tackle on Dow to save the day.
Then on 76 minutes Aberdeen had another massive let off. Mark Reynolds' headed back pass never reached Brown. Dow nipped in and looked to have scored but somehow the Dons skipper managed to get back and clear the ball off the line. Then seconds later the Dons very nearly scored. Goodwillie headed a Jack cross into the ground and the ball bounced just over the bar. It was another very good opening which was missed.
On 81 minutes Jack was booked. Pawlett followed him into the book minutes later as the game started to get nervy again and on 83 minutes United took the lead. A simple free kick from Paton was played into the box. Ciftci flicked it on and Scott Brown was unable to keep it out of his left hand corner. To lose two such poor goals was extremely disappointing.
There was still time to get back into the game, Cammy Smith was introduced, but in the closing stages the Dons were unable to put any pressure at all on the United defence. Aberdeen never looked like scoring. The Tannadice side deserve credit for seeing the game out.
Another very disappointing performance at the National Stadium.