DEREK McINNES praised the mental strength of his Aberdeen players as they reponded magnificently to the loss of an early goal to come back and beat Finland’s RoPs 2-1 last night.
The Pittodrie boss was delighted – and relieved – his team booked a place in second round of Europa League qualifying on a 4-2 aggregate where they will play Georgia’s Chikhura Sachkhere.
Tarik Kada’s shock 70-second opener nudged Finns ahead on away goals, but a Sam Cosgrove penalty-kick and late Lewis Ferguson effort did the business.
McInnees, speaking to the BBC, said: “There’s a natural feeling of ‘This is a disaster, we’ve gone behind’.
“The players have to win those mental battles and from then on we took control of the game. When we needed to stay calm and make good decisions, we did.
THE MATCHWINNER…Lewis Ferguson celebrates a goal for Dons.
“I’ve learned a lot about my team – and it’s a new team and new squad – over the last couple of games.
“We lose a goal with 30 seconds to go at Pittodrie and we lose a goal only seconds into the game tonight, but there was so much to enjoy about my team on this occasion.”
Ferguson’s breakaway goal in injury time settled the tie and McInnes hailed the scorer and fellow-teenager Dean Campbell.
He added: “We had an 18-year-old and 19-year-old in the midfield of the park and both were magnificent.
“Joe Lewis still has a save to make at the death. But when you look at the two games, the amount chances and action we had in the opposition box, there’s loads to be pleased with at this stage of the season.”
A 2,000-mile trip awaits the Dons for Thursday’s first leg in Sachkhere against the Georgian outfit, who overcame Luxembourg’s Fola Esch 4-2 to reach the second stage.