Aberdeen have unearthed an attacking weapon in right-back Calvin Ramsay – but the Dons backline is not yet where Stephen Glass will want it to be this season.
The Dons travelled to Iceland this evening for their Europa Conference League third qualifying round first leg clash with Breidablik following a clean sheet in the 2-0 Premiership-opening win against Dundee United on Sunday.
However, despite taking a quickfire two-goal lead via Christian Ramirez and Lewis Ferguson in Reykjavik, two slip-ups at the back before the break stopped them in their tracks, before Ramirez’s second just after half-time secured a 3-2 win to take back to the Granite City.
Calvin Ramsay’s rapid Aberdeen ascent continues
Against United at Pittodrie, centre-backs Ross McCrorie and Andy Considine had coped well with Glass’ clear instructions to play out from the back, despite any pressure put on them, while full-backs Jack MacKenzie and Calvin Ramsay had shown equal measures of ability and aggression in getting up and down the flanks.
Right-back Ramsay continued to underline his prodigious potential in Iceland, with two assists within the first 11 minutes – taking his tally to four assists in as many games this term. It’s been a bombshell entry into the the hearts of the Red Army by the only-just-18-year-old.
In the opening seconds, Ramsay had shown the composure to buy an early free-kick deep in the Dons half, ensuring they kept possession with no pass on and didn’t cede early territory to the home side
Moments later, he won a corner with an energetic burst to the Breidablik byeline, before sending the set-piece – which had clearly been planned – low to Christian Ramirez, who stepped out of the melee around the six-yard box and slotted into the bottom right corner. An ideal start in which the youngster was a key component.
A Ramirez volley from range soon after following a Jay Emmanuel-Thomas pass, which was saved by keeper Anton Einarsson, allowed Ramsay to clip in another corner – and this time Lewis Ferguson was there to send a towering header into the top right corner.
After 11 minutes, it was 2-0, and Ramsay had his fourth assist long before half-time in the fourth game of the season.
Gallagher starting berth needed to tighten up Reds defence?
Unfortunately, five minutes later, poor defending under a lumped high ball let Breidablik out of an early Aberdeen stranglehold. Ross McCrorie was far too casual and it saw him outmuscled by Arni Vilhjalmsson in the Dons area as he attempted to shield the ball out for a goal-kick.
It was difficult to see a scenario where Scotland international Declan Gallagher, sitting on the bench, wouldn’t have cleared up such a threat.
The home player was able to square to Gisli Eyjolfsson, who prodded the ball beyond a stranded Joe Lewis from close range.
In the 32nd minuted, Funso Ojo hit an angled drive parried by the keeper, before Ramsay was almost caught out at the other end with just a few minutes of the first half remaining after leaving goalscorer Eyjolfsson free at the back post. The striker couldn’t capitalise, but the warning to shore up defensively wasn’t heeded by the Dons.
Soon after, centre-half McCrorie had to step out to the right side to challenge for the ball after Ramsay moved forward to challenge Vilhjalmsson for another big punt forward from keeper Einarsson and was beaten to the ball.
McCrorie couldn’t prevent the cross and, after Ramsay tripped while sprinting back to try to get in the way, Andy Considine floored Vilhjalmsson in the area. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, with Vilhjalmsson getting up to send Lewis the wrong way.
The Breidablik goals, like those in the 2-0 away loss to Swedes BK Hacken, were too easy, and Aberdeen will be keen to avoid conceding so cheaply going forward.
Gallagher’s introduction at half-time – and the move to back three with the former Motherwell skipper in the middle – was a key moment in the contest in Reykjavik and one the visitors never really looked back from.
It would be a surprise if Gallagher now doesn’t play some part from the start against Livingston in the league at the weekend, either in the middle of a three or replacing Considine or McCrorie in a four.
Dylan McGeouch and Connor McLennan were also sent on at the break, with Ferguson, Jonny Hayes and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas departing, and it was clear the Aberdeen coaching staff were also trying to improve the side’s press, which had become disjointed during the opening period and contributed to their problems.
And, just like that, it was 3-2 by 49 minutes. It was a goal as simple as the two the home side scored, with a long ball forward by keeper Lewis taken down expertly in behind the Breidablik defence by McLennan, before the attacker slid a pass across to Ramirez to sweep it home.
⚽️ McLennan latched onto Joe Lewis' long ball forward, he squared it to Ramirez who did the rest. COYR!
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) August 5, 2021
The US striker is now up to four goals since joining the club – and his latest could be crucial, giving Aberdeen a great chance of getting past Breidablik in the Granite City next week and setting up a play-off round tie with either Azerbaijan’s Qarabag or AEL Limassol of Cyprus.
Those sides drew 1-1 in their third round opener on Thursday night.