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Ryan Hedges at the double as Aberdeen secure win in Europa Conference League

Aberdeen v BK Hacken – UEFA Europa Conference League – Second Qualifying Round – First Leg – Pittodrie Stadium
(Image credit: Steve Welsh)

Ryan Hedges scored twice but it was half-time substitute Funso Ojo who was the star of the show as Aberdeen eased past Icelanders Breidablik 2-1 to set up a tie with Azerbaijani side Qarabag in the Europa Conference League play-off round.

Hedges found the net twice with two completely different types of goal, and Ojo was heavily involved in both, with Gisli Eyjolfsson having equalised in between as the Dons recorded a 5-3 aggregate success.

Dons manager Stephen Glass had indicated before the match that his side would not settle for the draw that would secure their passage after their first-leg victory, but for much of the first half the sides cancelled each other out.

It was poor stuff as neither goalkeeper was worked for over half an hour, but suddenly the game sparked into life.

The catalyst was an incredible miss for the visitors as Viktor Einarsson squared for Arni Vilhjalmsson six yards out, but with Joe Lewis having been taken out of play, the forward fired wide.

That sparked a period of pressure for the home side that saw Hedges pass up a superb opening when left one-on-one with goalkeeper Anton Einarsson before Jack McKenzie saw a shot saved by the keeper two minutes later.

Christian Ramirez also tested the keeper before the break with an uncharacteristically weak finish, as the sides went in level but Aberdeen well in the ascendancy.

Glass is building a reputation for his tactical tweaks and a pair of half-time substitutions brought immediate rewards. Ojo was one of those entering the fray at the break as the Dons changed formation and the revitalised Belgian had an immediate impact.

He went on an astounding run to the left by-line and produced a cutback that made it impossible for Hedges to miss from close range, and the tie seemed over inside a minute after the restart.

The win should have been sealed after 51 minutes as Ojo robbed David Atlason after the fullback fell over. He again played in Hedges who this time pulled back to Lewis Ferguson, but his shot was wide of the target.

But Breidablik came back into the tie as Eyjolfsson curled home a superb leveller that left what had been a noisy 15,000 crowd at Pittodrie temporarily stunned.

They were soon back in full voice and were rewarded after 70 minutes when Ojo whipped a fine cross to the edge of the box.

Ramirez did superbly to bring it down, and although it did not drop kindly for him, Hedges was on hand to steer a superb left-footed 20-yard strike inside the far post.