Aberdeen 1-1 NK Siroki Brijeg: Dons held at home in Europa League
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 14/07/17 7:44am
Aberdeen still have work to do when they visit Bosnia next week after being pegged back by NK Siroki Brijeg in their Europa League second qualifying round first-leg tie.
Ryan Christie curled in a strike in the 18th minute but the visitors levelled through Stipo Markovic's angled 20-yard shot midway through the second half.
The Dons handed an immediate debut to wildcard signing Gary Mackay-Steven who put pen to paper just ahead of the UEFA deadline to be included in the squad, and fellow summer recruits Greg Tansey and Christie were also in the starting XI.
And on the early evidence this should have been a walk in the park for the home side, the visitors looking ill at ease in the face of some early pressing from Aberdeen.
Indeed, Christie saw goalkeeper Luka Bilobrk parry his free-kick in the 13th minute, before a secondary cross saw Andrew Considine's flick just evade Adam Rooney.
The deadlock was broken after 17 minutes as Joe Lewis plucked a cross out of the air, and picked out the lively Christie, now in a second loan spell at Pittodrie from Celtic, with his clearance.
The former Inverness midfielder strode forward confidently and unleashed from 22-yards, his left footed effort leaving Bilobrk grasping at air as the ball found the net low to the goalkeeper's right.
But with the Dons still in the midst of their pre-season preparations, some slack play quickly crept in, and there was a scare as Dino Coric cut back for Luka Begonja, the midfielder striking narrowly wide.
It should have been 2-0 10 minutes before the break as Mackay-Steven was slipped in and rounded the goalkeeper, but a perfectly-timed block from Bernardo Matic, on loan from the Dons' one-time European opponents HNK Rijeka, saw the ball turned behind for a corner.
And the visitors could have drawn level on the stroke of half-time, as Luka Menalo headed just inches wide of Lewis' post.
The longer the game went on, the more the visitors came into proceedings, and on the hour mark a Coric cross found Dejan Cabraja but his header was off-target.
The home side responded with a Graeme Shinnie cross finding fellow full-back Shay Logan, but his header was turned round the post by Bilobrk.
And two minutes later came the sucker punch the Dons had feared. Cabraja found space on the right flank and pulled back for Markovic, who angled a 20-yard shot beyond Lewis and into the corner of the net.
We'll go there confident we can bring a better performance, but it was clear that some of the players weren't where they need to be.
Substitute Nicky Maynard came close to restoring the Dons' lead as he sent a Christie cross narrowly wide, but with the play raging from end to end, the scores remain level ahead of next week's return leg.
"We're disappointed that we've not managed to get a win tonight. It's clear they're a decent side and they thoroughly deserved the draw," said Dons' boss Derek McInnes.
"I thought we had the better chances in the early part of the game, and missed a couple of chances. But there's no doubting that tactically they were very good.
"Normally we go into the first round and although it can be challenging we've got through it and used it as part of the preparation to play at this level. It's clear tonight that we've still got a bit to go.
"We'll go there confident we can bring a better performance, but it was clear that some of the players tonight weren't where they need to be. We'll aim to get a better result next week."
Gary Mackay-Steven was thrown straight into the team on Thursday having signed from Celtic just a day prior to the game, and McInnes remains confident of adding to his squad.
"We've had enquiries in for several players, but we'll concentrate on what we need to do at the moment," he added.
"We're confident we can get a defender in over the next few days, but we have to go with what we've got for next week's game."