ABERDEEN were knocked out of the Europa League last night despite putting in a spirited performance against Premier League side Burnley.
Goals from Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes ended the Dons’ resistance in extra-time, with last season’s Scottish Premieship runners-up having put in good showing over the two legs.
After 90 minutes the sides had gamely replicated last week’s 1-1 draw at Pittodrie but the additional half-hour allowed Sean Dyche’s side to flex their muscles, with Cork’s close-range header and Barnes’ penalty sealing a trip to Istanbul Basaksehir next week.
A simpler evening appeared to be in the offing when Chris Wood lashed home a sixth-minute opener but the Dons were worthy opponents – equalising through a sublime bicycle kick from 18-year-old Lewis Ferguson and staying in the game thanks to goalkeeper Joe Lewis.
It looked as though a shootout would be needed to prise the sides apart but England midfielder Cork made the decisive contribution before Barnes finished things from the spot.
After an unbecoming selection of long balls and head tennis, Ashley Westwood conjured a moment of quality to barge the fixture open.
His first-time clip over the top caught Aberdeen short but Wood was alive to the opportunity. The New Zealander took one touch to bring the ball down, a second to drag it away from Lewis and made no mistake in slamming his shot between two covering defenders.
The goal should have settled Burnley but, despite some tidy touches and plenty of possession, they did not flourish.
Things shifted dramatically in the 27th minute following an uncleared corner. The impressive Gary Mackay-Steven beat Matt Lowton and pinged a cross to the far post where Wood produced the worst kind of defensive header, floating the ball back across his own goal.
Ferguson sensed his moment and took it brilliantly, swivelling and contorting his body in search of a dream goal. Incredibly the teenager – son of Derek and nephew to Barry – found one.
This is special. This is unbelievable!
18-year-old Lewis Ferguson scores his first ever goal in stunning fashion 🙌
Aberdeen are level! pic.twitter.com/jcVTc4bjEq
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 2, 2018
Ferguson’s inspired intervention raised his team-mates, who grew in confidence and might easily have taken the lead just before the interval when Anders Lindegaard tipped Graeme Shinnie’s snap-shot wide.
Lindegaard was making his full debut for the club with Tom Heaton and Nick Pope injured, while Adam Legzdins received permission from UEFA to make the bench.
Wood, equal parts hero and villain in the first half, did not emerge for the second as Barnes took his place.
He brought an added edge to Burnley’s attack, leading the charge as they upped the tempo.
Aberdeen soaked up a period of pressure but only thanks to Lewis, who made a pair of fine saves to keep the game alive.
Barnes was first to be denied, a strong wrist allowing Lewis to divert a near-post rocket over the top.
His next contribution was slighter but no less important, tipping a Sam Vokes header against the underside of the bar.
A winner in normal time seemed likely as both sides began to tire, leaving gaps all over the pitch.
A couple of cynical fouls snuffed out dangerous counters while wingers from both sides, Niall McGinn and Aaron Lennon, ran themselves to an early exit.
Aberdeen got an adrenaline shot from Scott Wright, while Burnley called on Dwight McNeil for only his second appearance as extra-time beckoned.
Ten minutes after the restart, Burnley finally put daylight between the teams. Belatedly attacking with patience and purpose they worked the ball through the midfield and out to replacement left-back Charlie Taylor.
His cross was wicked and Cork’s onward run went unchecked, leaving the midfielder to nod in from close-range.
Barnes settled it from the spot after Scott McKenna’s handball, leaving Dyche to plot the next chapter of Burnley’s continental journey and Aberdeen with plenty of positives ahead of the new season.
“We’ve gone toe-to-toe with a team that finished seventh in the Premier League with two very competitive games,” boss Derek McInnes told BBC Scotland.
“The intensity of both games was probably because of the Scotland/England thing, it was quite remarkable really for this stage of the season.
“When I see how quiet and down the players are in the dressing room, they have no right to be that.”