A packed out Pittodrie was the scene of this all British Europa League second round qualifier against Burnley – giving the Dons an opportunity in the away leg next week.
The match started with an opening tribute to Neale Cooper, with a flag display in the Richard Donald Stand, to remember a Dons great on yet another European night at Pittodrie.
Winger Gary Mackay-Steven’s 19th-minute penalty – after England international James Tarkowski impeded Sam Cosgrove – put Aberdeen ahead at Pittodrie.
But their English Premier League visitors levelled with 10 minutes left when Sam Vokes spun and lashed a shot past Joe Lewis from seven yards.
The second leg will be next Thursday, with the winners playing Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir in the third qualifying round.
Derek McInnes told the club website: “For the first competitive game of the season for both teams it was a really competitive game played at a rapid tempo.
“Credit goes to both teams because you can go through a pre-season and try to replicate competitive football, but nothing gets you ready for it. The game itself was treated with the nature of the way game should be.
“I thought my players started bright and had some really good moments. They fed off the crowd and we got the first goal deservedly so. We were asking the question and our organisation was very good. I said at half time to the players we needed to be better than we were in the last 15 minutes of the first half and to show a bit more composure. We used maybe more energy than we had to in that first half. Burnley tested our organisation in the second half.
“You see the level of opponent when somebody like Vokes can come onto the pitch and score a goal. They had two strikers up there and started to get more and more territory, so it was harder for us to get up the pitch and have players capable of capitalising on a team sitting deeper. We ran out of legs a bit, but that’s nothing new. When we’ve played in Europe that first game is difficult to sustain the energy levels. We felt last season against Siroki we ran our race after 70 minutes, but over there we were so much better physically because we had the game. I think that game tonight and the strength will be better again and we will be more ready for the second leg.
“We’re still in the game.
“It’s a cup tie and we’re disappointed not to win the game having got ourselves in front and having had something to hold onto. Nobody can say Burnley didn’t deserve their equaliser. They were asking the question and credit to them second half they moved the ball better than they did in the first half. They got into better areas and I know we defended brilliantly at times you can see why they lost only five or six games on the road in the Premier League last season. The competitive side of them came out in that second half.
“You gain experience as you go along and a night like tonight is good for them.
“Having won away in Croatia and Groningen these are experiences for young and older players. I’ve got a lot of players playing tonight that haven’t competed in Europe before and we’ve got some youngsters. I think Tommie Hoban did fantastic considering he got told at 5pm he’s playing left back because Considine was ill. These sort of things, were there to test us, but I thought we equipped ourselves very well against a very good team who I have the highest regard for.
“There’s a feeling we can score down there, and we had enough good moments in the game to suggest that would be the case and if we score down there it’s game on. We’ve scored against good teams in Europe before and we won at Celtic Park 1-0 last time out in a high-pressure game. I’ve got the players who have the confidence and the personality to take the challenge on and try to win the game at Turf Moor.
“I know where we sit, and I know we’re a good team. I know our capabilities and we’re good enough individually and can be organised properly as a team. You saw Aberdeen in its full splendour tonight with 20,000 supporters with a great display for a great man. You saw both sets of players feed off that atmosphere as well, but I knew we would show we were a good team. I don’t need to convince anybody of that.
“Lewis Ferguson is 18 years of age, played a dozen games for Hamilton last season, but he is someone I feel needs to play these games and is going to be a big player for us. We brought Sam for 20 grand from Carlisle and he was up against an England international tonight and did very well for the team and played a very important role for us. When you talk about the differences of the club’s there’s not a huge difference between Aberdeen and Burnley. The difference comes from the league they operate in. Burnley can grow and be the animal they are now, and they have done brilliantly to get there.
“We’ve got a proud tradition and are a proper club and we’ll continue to be as competitive as we can be. Until TV companies and the finances change we can probably only do so much at times, but this is a tie we can win.”