Aberdeen 5-0 Chikhura Sachkhere: Cosgrove hits a hat trick in Euro rout
Sam Cosgrove, pictured, netted the first hat trick of his career (Getty Images: Scott Baxter)

A hat trick from striker Sam Cosgrove helped a rampant Aberdeen cruise to a 5-0 victory over Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere in the return leg of their Europa League second round qualifier.

Derek McInnes' side held a narrow advantage going into the game after an uninspiring performance last week in the 1-1 draw in Tbilisi, but completely blew away their opponents to set up a tie with Croatian outfit HNK Rijeka in the next qualifying stage.

Chikhura had issues getting to the North East of Scotland, and probably wished they had stayed at home. The Georgian's were simply no match for an Aberdeen side that were full of energy and endeavour right from the word go.

Aberdeen will now travel to Croatia next week for the first leg of their third round qualifier with Rijeka. The Dons have previously beaten the Croats, with a 5-2 aggregate victory in Europa League qualifying at the start of the 2015/16 season.

But before that the Reds welcome Hearts to Pittodrie this weekend in their opening fixture of the Scottish Premiership season, and will be full of confidence off the back of their biggest win in Europe since another 5-0 drubbing of Latvian outfit Daugava Riga in 2014.

Story of the match

Manager McInnes made just one alteration from the side that drew in Georgia last week, with loanee fullback Greg Leigh coming in for his Aberdeen debut in place of the injured Ash Taylor.

The home side came right out of the blocks, and the midfield pairing of Lewis Ferguson and Funso Ojo began to spray the ball around the pitch at  will.

It didn't take long for the Dons to find the opener, when on nine minutes the visitors were carved open by an excellent, free flowing attacking move involving Niall McGinn, Ryan Hedges and Jon Gallagher, and Sam Cosgrove beat keeper Dino Hamzic with a deflected effort from inside the area.

Aberdeen continued to drive forward in search of more goals, and they doubled their lead on the night eleven minutes later. Shay Logan clipped a ball down the right hand side and Lewis Ferguson expertly crossed the ball with his first touch to tee up Cosgrove for his second with a diving header from close range.

McInnes' team did not let up after the interval, with their slick, intricate football wowing the Pittodrie crowd. On 58 minutes, the away side failed to clear a corner, and Ferguson's clever ball over the top was met by debutant Greg Leigh, who headed home Aberdeen's third, despite calls for offside by the Chikhura backline.

The Dons then further added to their goal tally just six minutes later, when substitute Scott Wright, who had replaced McGinn just moments earlier, ran clean through on goal after a pass from Gallagher to slot home past the helpless Hamzic.

But it was the former Wigan striker Cosgrove who stole the show, and on 80 minutes he scored the goal that sealed the first hat trick of his professional career. The 22-year old used his sheer power and physique to charge into the area before brilliantly finishing with the outside of his right boot, to complete the rout and send the Pittodrie faithful home delighted.

Takeaways from the match

Dons attacking quartet singing from the same hymn sheet

The quality of Aberdeen's football and movement was a joy to behold. The 4-2-3-1 formation allowed the home side's front four to constantly run off each other and interchange positions, which the Chikhura defence could simply not live with.

The additions of Hedges and Gallagher this season already look to be shrewd pieces of business, and Irishman Gallagher helped himself to two assists.

A reliable pair of hands at left back

Dons fans were understandably left disappointed with the news earlier that defender Max Lowe would not be returning for another loan spell from Derby, but his replacement may well be able to fill that void.

24-year old Greg Leigh really shone on his maiden appearance before being substituted with 23 minutes remaining. The former Manchester City player is on loan from Dutch side NAC Breda, and if he can maintain that level of performance then he will most certainly become a hit at Pittodrie.

The full back was not troubled defensively, but looked very comfortable in possession, whilst showing his intelligence and understanding of his role with his positioning off the ball. The Englishman was able to cap off his  debut perfectly, by powerfully heading home from a chipped pass from Lewis Ferguson early in the second half. 

Aberdeen have the option to make Leigh's stay a permanent one as part of the loan deal, and is something they will be very keen to do providing that their man stays fit and keeps his place in the side.

Man of the match

The Dons had a number of impressive performers on the night, but it was Sam Cosgrove who ensured he grabbed all the headlines.

The big striker was perhaps slightly fortunate with his first goal, but took his other two very well to claim his first professional hat trick making it six goals in the Europa League so far this season.

Last night's action is the latest instalment of what has been a remarkable rise for Cosgrove. After joining the club in January 2018, the former Carlisle United man was unable to register a goal for the Dons until the following October. That brace against Hamilton has completely reversed the striker's fortunes, and he has now scored 27 goals in 48 appearances for the club.

Cosgrove still has his critics, but if he can produce those kinds of numbers, then his stock will only continue to rise even further.

 

 

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