Boss Derek McInnes is proud of Aberdeen’s performance away to Portuguese giants Sporting.
The Dons’ Europa League dream is over after being edged out 1-0 in Lisbon at the third qualifying round stage.
However, McInnes praised his side for pushing a team he expects to have aspirations to win the tournament all the way.
McInnes said: “There is frustration because we didn’t win the game, but I am proud of their performance.
“We put so much into the game and I thought we were close to getting an equaliser.
“I think if we’d done that it would have been merited, so naturally we are disappointed.
“Apart from the goal I don’t think they penetrated us, the discipline of the team was good.
“It was a very well-organised performance, but we didn’t take advantage of it.
“We lost the ball in our own half, but the goal they scored was top class.
“This is a team who have plans to win the tournament, they recruit at a completely different level to us. I am proud of the players for what they produced.”
Aberdeen fell behind after eight minutes when Tiago Tomas, 18, netted a superb strike on his second start for Sporting.
McInnes said: “The game was decided by a bit of real quality.
“But Joe has only had one save to make in the game, away from home to Sporting Lisbon.
“When you go behind at a place like this after eight minutes you sometimes fear the worst, but I thought the players responded really well.
“They showed the experience they have built up over the years. They stayed calm and you saw that in their performance.
“We went with an extra midfielder to try not to lose a goal and thought they might tire as the game went on.
“I felt we used our substitutes at the right time, getting Scott Wright on and the other lads – we finished the game very strongly.
“They are a strong team and, when the team lines came in, we knew what a task we faced.”
The Dons more than held their own against the Portuguese giants and can rightly curse the bad luck of the draw, having landed such a strong side, regardless of Sporting’s off-field problems in the build-up to the game.
In the lead-up to the tie, Sporting suffered a Covid-19 outbreak with nine players and manager Ruben Amorim testing positive. All 10 were out of the tie last night as they were self-isolating.
Sporting were playing their first competitive game since July.
McInnes said: “The only advantage we had over Sporting was that they hadn’t played, they had every other advantage over us.
“Sporting will improve as they go through the rounds.
“You could still see they are a very good side.”
McInnes was frustrated with referee Nikola Dabanovic of Montenegro for some of his decisions during the game.
He said: “I thought the referee was a real source of frustration.
“We talked about that before the game and he was whistling at almost everything.”