Aberdeen will need to produce one of their great European performances after a painful loss in Croatia.
The 2-0 defeat to Rijeka, after second-half goals from Antonio Colak and Robert Muric, gives the visitors a huge advantage heading into the Europa League third qualifying round second leg at Pittodrie on Thursday.
A resilient first-half display was undone on the hour when Shay Logan dragged down Luka Capan, allowing Antonio Colak to score from the spot, before Robert Muric hammered in a second with three minutes remaining.
The Dons require at least a three-goal triumph at Pittodrie in six days’ time, otherwise Rijeka will gain revenge for their elimination from this competition by the Dons in 2015.
Scott McKenna kept his place in the side, despite the fervent transfer speculation surrounding him this week, while Niall McGinn and Ryan Hedges were drafted back in after dropping to the bench against Hearts.
Zak Vyner, who was a last- minute addition to the squad after signing on loan from Bristol City, made the bench.
McKenna conceded a corner inside two minutes. Tibor Halilovic’s centre was met on the run by Roberto Puncec, but he scooped his shot over the bar.
Rijeka had their first spot of defensive work to do nine minutes in, with Maxwell Acosty intervening crucially to prevent Sam Cosgrove’s knock-down reaching Lewis Ferguson.
After a pause in the game due to a clash of heads between Hedges and Ivan Lepinjica, the hosts threatened again. Halilovic was again involved, taking Acosty’s pass at the right edge of the penalty box and fizzing a shot over the top.
The Croatian Cup holders ought to have been in front on the half-hour mark, but Dario Zuparic somehow completely missed the target. Lepinjica diverted Halilovic’s left-wing corner goalwards and Lewis did well to parry, with the rebound falling to an unmarked Zuparic six yards from goal. With Lewis out of the picture, he skewed his shot wide.
It was a 45 minutes McInnes would have been content with, given Lewis had not been called into action too often and they had defended their penalty area well, with Andy Considine in particular making several key contributions.
Halilovic was at the centre of everything positive about Rijeka again after the break and almost profited from positive work from Acosty, sending a dipping shot from 25 yards past Lewis’ far post.
After enjoying significant periods of pressure it finally told with Logan – one of three players in the 11 who started for the Dons in Rijeka in 2015 – guilty of a shirt-tug on Capan.
The foul was spotted by Spanish referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoechea and a penalty awarded. Lewis was not able to bail his team out again, with Colak rolling home from the spot.
There was a noticeable change in impetus from the Dons after going behind, and they were willing to push more bodies forward in order to find a way back into the game.
But Rijeka goalkeeper Andrej Prskalo had been a relative passenger throughout the game, with little thrown at him to cause him alarm.
The Dons chucked on Scott Wright and Curtis Main, as well as Dean Campbell, in an effort to find an away goal, but in truth, they showed little sign of achieving this.
Muric had not long been on the park before making his mark, though, scything across the Aberdeen defence to deliver the hammer blow into Lewis’ bottom corner.
A performance akin to the one they delivered in the 5-0 win against Chikhura – and then some – will be required back in the Granite City if they are to reach the play-off round.