Niall McGinn insists the Dons have enough to “Finnish” the job against RoPS Rovaniemi in the first qualifying round, despite a late first-leg sucker punch.
The Dons were in command of the tie against the Finns, leading 2-0 at Pittodrie courtesy of goals from McGinn and Sam Cosgrove as the seconds ticked down.
However, Tommi Jantti struck for RoPS with virtually the last kick of the ball meaning the Reds hold only a slender advantage as they head to Lapland for Thursday’s return.
Although the late concession was a disappointment for the Dons, McGinn is confident they can win at the Keskuskenttä next week and secure a second qualifying round meeting with CS Fola Esch of Luxembourg or Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere.
The 31-year-old winger said: “The goal at the end has to motivate us because it shows we have to be on our toes, be guarded and bring the game to them. We know we’ve got the players to create chances in Finland and we know we are capable of scoring over in Finland.
“We want to do that and we’ll probably need to do that.
“There is frustration – but we have won the game.
“We challenge ourselves to keep clean sheets because we know at the top end of the pitch we are capable of creating chances and scoring goals.
“It’s one of those incidents where maybe we just have to clear the ball and regroup.
“It was the last 10 seconds of the game so we have to learn from it. We know going over there now we’ll have to get at them and I think we’ll have to score as well.
“They’re one goal away from putting us out, but we’ll go over there with confidence.
“Apart from the late goal we can take confidence from the rest of the performance.
“In Europe we have the likes of Shay Logan, Joe Lewis, Andy Considine, Scott McKenna, myself – players in there who have played plenty of European football before.
“We have to use that experience and regroup going into the second leg.
“There is a bitter taste that we conceded so late on, it almost made it feel like a defeat.”
On Thursday McGinn was making his first Aberdeen appearance since early April.
The Northern Ireland international missed the end of last season with an ankle ligament injury, which required surgery at the beginning of May.
Initially it looked like he would miss the first Europa League tie, but he recovered quicker than expected to play for 82 minutes against RoPS. He added: “After the last game of the season (Hibs away May 19) I had two weeks off so I got away and had two weeks’ holiday in America.
“But during that holiday I was in the gym five or six times.
“I kept working hard and the rehab started early for me. I was back in at Pittodrie on June 6 or 7.
“I’ve been working hard with the two physios Adam Stokes and Tony Tompos and the surgeon who have all done a great job.
“The hard work put in behind the scenes makes it that bit more rewarding when you’re out there helping your team-mates and scoring a goal.
“There are times to relax as a player, but I worked hard behind the scenes and I’ve always been like that. I’ve always been a worker.
“I’ve always tried to look after myself and it’s for moments like Thursday where I came back, scored a goal and showed a good level of fitness.
“I was tiring towards the middle of the second half, but hopefully those minutes will benefit me in the next few weeks.”
McGinn’s opener on Thursday was a thing of beauty. He collected Ryan Hedges’ low cross from the left, nicked the ball past Kalle Katz with his first touch and deftly lifted it over goalie Antonio Reguero from an acute angle.
McGinn said: “I just took a perfect first touch, the keeper has come chasing out and I’ve dinked it over him.
“It’s probably one of my favourite goals for the club and it’s helped the team get going because we had a few chances in the first half.
“I was delighted on a personal level to have a good start with my first goal.”