IT was on course to be concise, comfortable and convincing with a performance and result which, until the 93rd minute, gave no indication that RoPS Rovaniemi had anything good enough in their armoury to see them into the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

Aberdeen were a level above their visitors, although manager Derek McInnes might be concerned that the number of shots on target and pressure they imposed on their opponents did not translate into more goals, especially as the roof fell in seconds before the final whistle when Tommi Jantti beat the offside trap to grab a valuable goal and give the Finnish outfit hope of finding a way into the next round of the competition.

Before that, Niall McGinn and Sam Cosgrove had given the 14,500 crowd at Pittodrie the strikes they wanted to see in a one-sided affair that illustrated why their opponents sit 10th in their domestic league. Had it not been for an outstanding performance from 37-year-old goalkeeper Antonio Reguero, the Reds would have rattled in many more.

Evening Times:

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The annual summer holiday break in Aberdeen – the trades fortnight – meant many Dons fans missed this tie, but those who were there were seeing attackers Ryan Hedges, a Wales international released by Barnsley, and Jon Gallagher, brought to the north-east from Atlanta United for a season, for the first time.

RoPS, with 11 domestic fixtures already under their belt, were calm under the kind of pressure demanded by McInnes and the Pittodrie faithful, though they and Cosgrove will wonder how he missed a close-range effort from Andrew Considine’s precise ball into the area in the 10th minute.

Three minutes later, Gallagher’s curling left-foot strike looked good enough to open the scoring, until veteran goalkeeper Reguero, familiar with Scottish football after spells at Kilmarnock, Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, before being released by Hibs three years ago, produced some acrobatics to reach the ball and come to the rescue.

Yet, the men from Lapland were no slouches when play allowed them to display their flair for slick passing and speedy penetration. There were attacking manoeuvres that kept the Dons defence alert, and when Aleksandr Kokko’s strike from 16 yards left his right foot, only a timely deflection by Scott McKenna prevented Joe Lewis from having to reach a difficult ball.

But, in the 36th minute, we were served a “how did he do that?” moment from McGinn, as creative a player as there is in Scottish football’s top tier. The Northern Ireland international raced to Reguero’s right-hand post to collect Hedges’ low pass and somehow evaded the attention of RoPS defenders, turned and fired his shot from the most acute of angles into the goal at the opposite post.

Evening Times:

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The strike did nothing for the confidence of the visitors and had Lewis Ferguson’s ferocious shot from 25 yards beaten Reguero seconds before the break, Aberdeen smiles would have been even wider.

The “more of the same, please” from McInnes during the interval did not need to be repeated and less than three minutes into the second half, the impressive Gallagher’s low ball to Rovaniemi’s near post found Cosgrove, whose touch beat Reguero and slipped over the line to reaffirm the Reds’ authority.

Mohamadou Sissoko, a League Cup winner with Kilmarnock in 2012, and his defensive team-mates, began to look weary as the Dons increased the tempo. Sissoko, who spent three years at Rugby Park, certainly knew little of Cosgrove’s quick-fire shot, teed-up by substitute Dean Campbell, and saved, again in dramatic fashion by Reguero, the star man for RoPS.

For Lewis, however, it was the quietest of evenings on his debut as team captain, his skills called into action only once, to block a bullet of a shot from Tarik Kada midway through the second half. However, he, along with the home fans, was left stunned as Jantti sprung the offside trap to hit his extremely useful goal.

The Dons, then, will head for Lapland rather more wary after that disastrous ending.