Aberdeen 1-1 Maribor: Derek McInnes retains belief Dons can progress

Johnny Hayes
Johnny Hayes scored Aberdeen's equaliser two minutes from the end

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes praised his players' mental toughness as they bounced back to draw with Maribor.

Milivoje Novakovic scored against the run of play to give the visitors the lead with seven minutes left of the Europa League qualifying tie first leg.

However, the Dons have made a habit of scoring late goals in the competition and Jonny Hayes levelled the aggregate score with two minutes remaining.

"I was delighted with everybody but especially the response," said McInnes.

"The tie went the way we wanted apart from losing that goal near the end as we were asking questions of a team that defend very deep, just as we planned.

"We got in the box, made chance after chance and caused them all sorts of problems.

Maribor
Milivoje Novakovic (11) put Maribor in front

"It could have been a case of 'oh it's just not our night' or been gallant losers again but the goal we got can be so important for us.

"The intent was there from the outset while being respectful of what the opposition can do to you because they are a skilful side.

"But it says a lot about the team the number of late goals we have had this season. That pleases me no end.

"I think that is a mental attitude where they never know they are beat and never know that time is running out. We play on all the way and that got us the very least we deserved out of the game on the night."

Aberdeen go into the return tie at the 13,000-capacity Ljudski Vrt Stadium next Thursday knowing they need to score at least once to stand a chance of reaching the play-off round - as a 0-0 draw would take their opponents through on the away goals rule.

"I would anticipate they won't have to be too expansive over there having got the away goal so we need to make sure we stay in the game," added McInnes.

"But if we created even a quarter of the chances we did tonight over in Slovenia, then I will be pleased.

"I know on another night we would take more of those sort of chances so it is important that we believe the tie is still there for us.

"I still believe we can get through this tie."

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