RoPS Rovaniemi 1-2 Aberdeen: Reds edge Lapland encounter to progress to second round
Teenager Lewis Ferguson, pictured, was the hero once again for Aberdeen (Getty Images: Ian Rutherford - PA Images)

A late goal from Lewis Ferguson helped Aberdeen to avoid a huge upset and secure their place in the second qualifying round for the UEFA Europa League.

Derek McInnes' side, who led 2-1 against Finnish team RoPS Rovaniemi from the first leg, got off to a dreadful start by going a goal down after just 70 seconds but levelled the scoreline shortly before the half hour mark through a Sam Cosgrove penalty.

The Dons then survived some late pressure from the Finnish side, and Ferguson's injury-time strike sealed their place in the next qualifying stage, where they will face Georgian outfit Chikhura Sachkhere.

Story of the match

Manager McInnes, who took control of his 300th Aberdeen game, made two changes from the 2-1 victory from the first leg. Centre back Ash Taylor, who recently returned to the club after two seasons down south with Northampton, replaced the injured Michael Devlin, whilst youngster Dean Campbell came in for Scott Wright to partner Lewis Ferguson in the heart of the Dons midfield.

All of the Aberdeen manager's plans must have went out the window when his side found themselves a goal down after less than two minutes. Scott McKenna failed to deal with a long ball and Tarik Kada was able to pounce and fire past keeper Joe Lewis from distance, helped by a big deflection from Dons defender Ash Taylor.

A 1-0 win for the hosts would have been enough to see them progress to the second round, so the visitors needed a response.

Lewis Ferguson went close with a looping header that just passed the far post, as the Dons struggled to break down the Finnish outfit, who were quite content to hold on to their lead.

But the Scottish Premiership side were handed the opportunity to get the equaliser on 26 minutes when a rash challenge from former Kilmarnock defender Mahamdou Sissoko on Lewis Ferguson resulted in the away side being awarded a penalty by referee Umir Ozturk.

Sam Cosgrove tucked away the spot-kick, to once again give the Dons the upper hand in the tie.

But in a similar vein to last week, Aberdeen were guilty of wasting chances that would have completely killed off the tie and booked their place in the next round.

Cosgrove could have helped himself to a hat trick, but missed two glaring opportunities, first heading wide from an excellent cross from Ryan Hedges shortly before the interval, and then seeing another header hit the side netting after meeting Jon Gallagher's chipped ball.

The Pittodrie side were almost punished for their failure to put the game to bed, when goalkeeper Joe Lewis, who had been a bystander for the majority of the game, pounced off his line to smother an effort from Younness Rahimi in the closing stages of the match.

But to the relief of the travelling support, and to the thousands of Dons fans watching at home, Aberdeen finally clinched their spot in the third qualifying phase in stoppage time, when Lewis Ferguson broke into the area and beat RoPS keeper Antonio Reguero at the second attempt after his initial effort was saved.

Takeaways from the match

Despite scoring in both games, striker Cosgrove has been criticised for his finishing in front of goal over the two legs.

The former Carlisle forward equalised from the penalty spot, but missed two brilliant chances with headers from inside the area that would have put the outcome of the tie beyond any doubt.

Manager Derek McInnes will be pleased with his main man's contribution so far this season but will want to see more ruthlessness from Cosgrove in front of goal, so that the 22-year old can recapture the goalscoring form that saw him net 21 times in all competitions in the last campaign.

Man of the match

Once again, it was teenager Lewis Ferguson who stole the headlines with a crucial late goal for Aberdeen.

The Scotland under 21 international scored late winners against Kilmarnock, Livingston and bitter rivals Rangers in the semi-final of the Betfred Cup last season, as well as a stunning overhead kick in the narrow defeat to English Premier League side Burnley in the Europa League qualifiers last summer.

The 19-year-old reminded Dons fans that he is the man for the big occasion, by firing the ball past RoPS keeper Reguero in stoppage time to seal his team's place in the next round.

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