Aberdeen 2-1 Apollon Limassol

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Aberdeen midfielder Ryan Christie opened the scoring after just four minutes at Pittodrie

Graeme Shinnie’s 25-yard strike secured Aberdeen a narrow victory over Apollon Limassol in the first leg of the Europa League third qualifying round tie.

The home side surged to an early lead at Pittodrie when Ryan Christie scored with a header after just four minutes.

The Cypriot side grew in confidence and stature in the second half, though, and equalised through Ribeiro Santana.

Yet indiscipline cost the visitors, with Esteban Sachetti dismissed before Shinnie’s winner.

Apollon head coach Sofronis Avgousti had already been sent to the stand, just after the Cypriot side equalised.

It may have been a rare home European win for the Dons, but given their excellent away form in the Europa League they will be confident of seeing the job through in Larnaca next Thursday night; and they did it without their main hitman.

Only Mark McGhee, John Hewitt and Drew Jarvie have scored more European goals for Aberdeen than Adam Rooney, but he may have to wait until the final qualifying round to add the nine he already has.

Aberdeen’s early onslaught effective

The Irishman had a scan on a hamstring injury the day before the first leg tie and faces a race to be fit not just for the second leg in Cyprus but also the Premiership opener at home to Hamilton on Sunday week.

Early on, it didn’t look as if the loss of their most prolific striker in recent years would matter that much. Aberdeen started impressively, with a performance of pace, intensity and pressing that Apollon found hard to resist.

They were also boosted by an early goal, with Celtic’s on-loan midfielder Christie once again the man that mattered after scoring in the home leg against Siroki Brijeg before creating both in the away win in the last round.

This time, the midfielder linked up effectively with former Celtic winger Gary Mackay-Steven, looping in a header from the latter’s inviting cross from the left.

Greg Stewart came in for some heavy treatment from Sachetti and the Argentinian midfielder was lucky to escape with only a yellow card for a shocking challenge on the former Dundee striker.

Apollon Limassol left-back Jander left Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis with no chance from close range

However, to their credit the Cypriot side somehow survived the Dons early onslaught and started to play their way into the game with some neat passing movement that only lacked a cutting edge.

It was unsurprising that Christie came closest to increasing Aberdeen’s lead before the break with another lovely bit of skill at the edge of penalty area, only to see his shot fly just wide.

Like the home leg against Siroki Brijeg, though, Aberdeen looked second best for long spells after the break, with substitute Antonio Jakolis causing problems down the right wing, so much so that he created an equaliser.

The Croatian burst clear before pulling the ball back for Brazillian left back Jander to force an effort over the line from close range.

It looked ominous for Aberdeen at that stage but Avgousti was sent to the stand before the restart and worse was to follow when Sachetti picked up a second yellow card after flattening Christie with 19 minutes remaining.

The captain Shinnie rose to the occasion, with a stunning strike right out of the blue from 20 yards that arched its way into the top right-hand corner of the net.

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