Aberdeen delivered a much-improved display as they began their Europa Conference League campaign with a battling defeat away to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Barry Robson’s side, still without a league win this term, held their own against the expensively assembled German side, but Robin Koch’s glancing header midway through the second half earned the hosts the points.
Omar Marmoush had put Eintracht in front from the spot after Jack MacKenzie fouled Eric Junior Dina Emimbe, but Dante Polvara equalised from a superb team move to the delight of the travelling Aberdeen contingent.
When Marmoush swept home from the spot in the 11th minute, it seemed Aberdeen could be in for a long night, but they were undaunted by the early concession, and hit back with a wonderful goal.
Bojan Miovski drove into space, released the marauding Nicky Devlin down the right, and the Aberdeen wing-back found the unmarked Polvara, who made no mistake from close range, lashing the ball into the roof of the net.
From there, Robson’s side impressed. There was a stunning save from Kelle Roos to deny Paxton Aaronson, but Aberdeen went in at the break deservedly level.
Eintracht made changes at the interval, but continued to lack fluency in the opening stages of the second half. However, Koch lost Slobodan Rubezic from a Fares Chaibi corner and glanced a header into the far corner to restore the lead.
That enabled the German side to take more of a grip on proceedings, but there were still moments in the game for Aberdeen, and they could have snatched a point right at the death.
The ball found its way through to Ester Sokler at the back post, but the forward could not hit the target, volleying wide with the home defence helpless.
Player of the match – Nicky Devlin
‘Courageous’ Aberdeen show signs of progress – analysis
Tyrone Smith, BBC Sport Scotland at the Deutsche Bank Park
Robson will have learned a lot about his Aberdeen players, as they showed bucket loads of character and courage.
Written off by virtually everyone going in to this game, they could have gone under when Frankfurt took the early lead – but they didn’t, they stood up and were counted to a man, clearly rattling their illustrious hosts.
Yes, Frankfurt prevailed in the end, but given all the talk pre match about the supposed gulf between the sides, Aberdeen can certainly leave Germany with their heads held high.
Robson got his tactics spot on and will be hoping his side can take positives from this game forward as they seek to revive their stuttering domestic campaign over the coming weeks.
‘We could have nicked a draw’ – reaction
Aberdeen manager Barry Robson: “I think when you wear that Aberdeen jersey, and you’re in Europe, you need to try to show that mentality, desire, fight, tactical know-how, and I thought they did all that in abundance.
“That is a terrific team we faced out there, full of top players. They worked extremely hard, stuck to the tactical plan, and in the last 10 minutes, we could have nicked a draw.
“I trust my players. They’re a good bunch, and it’s frustrating when it’s a set-play and a penalty that’s cost you. We’re disappointed that we didn’t come away with anything, but we need to move onto a big game on Sunday.”
Aberdeen return to domestic action against Ross County at Pittodrie on Sunday (15:00 BST).
Their next Conference League outing is against HJK Helsinki at Pittodrie on 5 October, with the Finnish champions opening their Group G account with a 3-2 home win against Greek side PAOK.
- 26Dina Ebimbe
- 17RodeSubstituted forLarssonat 39′minutes
- 29NkounkouSubstituted forKnauffat 68′minutes
- 30AaronsonBooked at 25minsSubstituted forNgankamat 45′minutes
- 7MarmoushSubstituted forButaat 83′minutes
- 27GötzeSubstituted forChaïbiat 45′minutes
- 35Silva Melo
- 6GartenmannBooked at 63mins
- 21PolvaraSubstituted forHayesat 71′minutes
- 10ClarksonSubstituted forBarronat 71′minutes
- 4ShinnieSubstituted forDuncanat 71′minutes
- 7McGrathSubstituted forSoklerat 77′minutes
- 9MiovskiSubstituted forHenriques de Barros Lopesat 56′minutes
- 11Henriques de Barros Lopes
- 18R Williams
- Chrysovalantis Theouli
Match ends, Eintracht Frankfurt 2, Aberdeen 1.
Second Half ends, Eintracht Frankfurt 2, Aberdeen 1.
Robin Koch (Eintracht Frankfurt) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ester Sokler (Aberdeen).
Attempt missed. Ester Sokler (Aberdeen) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right following a set piece situation.
Foul by Farès Chaïbi (Eintracht Frankfurt).
Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Offside, Aberdeen. Stefan Gartenmann tries a through ball, but Duk is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Farès Chaïbi (Eintracht Frankfurt) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Hugo Larsson.
Foul by Willian Pacho (Eintracht Frankfurt).
Ryan Duncan (Aberdeen) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Ansgar Knauff (Eintracht Frankfurt) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Slobodan Rubezic (Aberdeen).
Corner, Aberdeen. Conceded by Junior Dina Ebimbe.
Substitution, Eintracht Frankfurt. Aurélio Buta replaces Omar Marmoush.
Attempt saved. Junior Dina Ebimbe (Eintracht Frankfurt) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner.
Substitution, Aberdeen. Ester Sokler replaces Jamie McGrath.
Attempt saved. Ansgar Knauff (Eintracht Frankfurt) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Omar Marmoush.
Attempt missed. Richard Jensen (Aberdeen) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Ryan Duncan with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Aberdeen. Conceded by Willian Pacho.