Soccer

Jamie McGrath earns Aberdeen a point but Europa League chances end in Greece

Jamie McGrath celebrates his equaliser (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Jamie McGrath celebrates his equaliser (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) Jamie McGrath celebrates his equaliser (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

Jamie McGrath’s 30-yard free-kick earned Aberdeen a point against PAOK in Greece but it was not enough to keep the Dons in the Europa Conference League beyond Christmas.

McGrath struck soon after PAOK took the lead midway through the second half after fighting back from an early opener from Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes.

The 2-2 draw in Thessaloniki earned Aberdeen their second point in Group G but PAOK moved to 10 points, while Eintracht Frankfurt’s win over HJK Helsinki moved the Germans on to nine points after four games.

The damage in the group had been done when PAOK fought back from a two-goal deficit to win at Pittodrie deep in stoppage-time two weeks earlier.

Aberdeen started with top goalscorer Bojan Miovski on the bench and Duk seized his chance in the starting line-up.

The Dons took the lead in the 14th minute after Nicky Devlin played a one-two with Ryan Duncan and delivered a low cross. Duk rolled his marker and netted on the turn from eight yards.

The hosts were level nine minutes later. Aberdeen centre-back Slobodan Rubezic lost a tackle with Taison and failed to track his opponents’ run properly. The Brazilian played a one-two and slotted home.

McGrath might have wondered whether the video assistant referee would intervene after Vieirinha escaped with a yellow card for stamping on his ankle.

The Dons survived some serious pressure to go in level at half-time. Rubezic hit his own post as he blocked a cross, Vieirinha tested the Dons with some teasing crosses and Brandon hit the post.

Aberdeen goalkeeper Kelle Roos made two saves in the opening minutes of the second half before the Dons came back into it without threatening.

PAOK put the pressure on with a series of set-pieces and Mbwana Samatta eventually nodded home from a crowded goalmouth in the 67th minute.

The Greek side’s lead only lasted three minutes when McGrath found the corner of the net with a well-struck free-kick after Duk had been pushed.

The Republic of Ireland midfielder was soon the victim of a penalty award despite not touching his opponent, Giannis Konstantelias. The decision was reversed after a VAR review but it was the second time in 10 minutes that a PAOK player had escaped punishment for an outrageous penalty-box dive.

Miovski replaced McGrath in the 78th minute but neither the Macedonian striker nor any of his team-mates would get a late chance to keep the Dons in the qualification hunt.

It was PAOK who finished the stronger team. Stefan Schwab missed a great headed chance and Roos saved from Taison before Aberdeen held out from some sustained pressure.

Aberdeen’s only late attacks came via several long throws from Richard Jensen but none of them led to a chance.