Soccer

Aberdeen bounce back from two goals down to draw with HJK in Finland

Duk netted Aberdeen’s equaliser (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Duk netted Aberdeen’s equaliser (Andrew Milligan/PA) Duk netted Aberdeen’s equaliser (Andrew Milligan/PA)

C fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with HJK in a Europa Conference League game that was held up by a Helsinki snow storm.

The referee briefly stopped the game early in the second half because the travelling Dons fans were throwing snowballs, before a longer delay to allow several snow ploughs to clear the pitch.

Aberdeen were two goals down inside 33 minutes but a stunning strike from Angus MacDonald gave them a lifeline.

Duk levelled in the 56th minute before the 13-minute delay. There had been snow on the artificial pitch at the Bolt Arena from the start with an orange ball deployed and there was no let-up throughout amid temperatures of -5C.

Aberdeen finished the stronger team after the game restarted but could not convert several late chances.

Both teams were consigned to a bottom-two finish in Group G after match day four and the home side’s domestic season ended on October 21 when they clinched the Finnish title on goal difference.

Barry Robson made eight changes to the team that started Sunday’s draw with Rangers. MacDonald made his first start in almost three months following an injury-hit start to the season, while 20-year-old Jack Milne and summer signing Pape Habib Gueye both made their first starts for the club.

Milne showed promise in the opening stages with a good run and cross that led to shots from Duk and Gueye but neither could get through to test the home goalkeeper.

HJK soon got on top and Kelle Roos twice saved well with his feet before the home pressure paid off in the 16th minute. Slobodan Rubezic sold himself with an over-eager attempt to cut out a forward pass and Hassane Bande took advantage as he fired high into the net.

The home side clipped the post and the bar in the following moments and Aberdeen squandered two chances to put HJK under pressure from free-kicks following cynical challenges. The Dons would be subjected to several more throughout the game as Kosovan referee Genc Nuza adopted a lenient approach, although two players were booked from each side.

Aberdeen fell further behind when Santeri Hostikka skipped past three weak challenges and fired through a crowded goalmouth into the bottom corner.

The Dons got back into the game completely out of the blue in the 41st minute. MacDonald controlled a pass 30 yards out and fired the bouncing ball into the top corner.

Robson made two half-time changes as Ester Sokler replaced the ineffective Gueye and Jamie McGrath came on for Ryan Duncan.

The referee turned to Jonny Hayes to try to stop the Aberdeen fans throwing snowballs as HJK prepared to take a goal-kick early in the second half and Sokler was also unsettling the home defence with his harrying.

The substitute’s hard work led to the corner which resulted in Aberdeen’s 56th-minute equaliser. Richard Jensen flicked on Connor Barron’s delivery and Duk nodded home at the far post.

HJK substitute Jukka Raitala fired over from six yards in the 72nd minute just before Nuza took the players off.

Aberdeen re-emerged the stronger team. McGrath and Sokler each twice threatened and substitute Bojan Miovski saw an effort saved as Aberdeen broke with numbers.

The Dons were disappointed when the final whistle eventually sounded as they searched for a winner on a pitch which was again covered in snow with the lines barely visible.