Chikhura Sachkhere 1-1 Aberdeen: Sam Cosgrove penalty earns draw
Sam Cosgrove's penalty rescued a first-leg draw for Aberdeen against Chikhura Sachkhere in their Europa League second qualifying round tie in Tbilisi.
A Vazha Koripadze spot-kick, conceded by debutant Funso Ojo, put the hosts ahead shortly before the break.
But Derek McInnes' men, unsettled by a first-half injury to Ash Taylor, regrouped to claim a crucial leveller.
And they will be confident of finishing the job at Pittodrie next Thursday to set up a tie with Croatian side Rijeka.
Chikhura rarely rose above average but it took two excellent late saves from Joe Lewis to keep the scoreline level.
Taylor injury proves pivotal
With the game taking place around 100 miles from Sachkhere, there was an eerie backdrop with only a couple of hundred fans in the 50,000-capacity Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi.
Still, Aberdeen were not spooked in the opening stages and quickly found their feet, with Jon Gallagher blazing a Shay Logan cross over the bar.
Gallagher's poor touch then prevented him breaking clear on to a Lewis Ferguson pass before Taylor nodded a free-kick too high.
McInnes' men looked comfortable but were forced into an early reshuffle when centre-back Taylor hobbled off after injuring himself while clattering Revaz Chitishvili to earn a booking.
With no like-for-like replacement on the bench, Craig Bryson came on for his debut, with fellow midfielder Gallagher moved to right-back, Logan shifting across to the left and Andy Considine moving into central defence.
The change stunted the visitors' rhythm and Ojo - the £125,000 summer signing from Scunthorpe - soon followed Taylor into the book for a two-footed lunge on Davit Maisashvili that could have resulted in a red.
Worse was to follow as Aberdeen, who had not been troubled, fell behind four minutes from half-time with a self-inflicted wound. Ojo clumsily left a leg in on Irakli Lekvtadze in the box and Koripadze squeezed the penalty inside Lewis' left-hand post despite the keeper getting across in time.
There was a further rejig at half-time, with Logan restored to right-back, Gallagher returning to midfield and Ryan Hedges filling in at left-back.
Despite his defensive role, Hedges bombed forward to almost fashion an equaliser at the start of the second half with a dangerous centre nearly deflected into his own net by Oleg Mamasakhlisi. He was caught out at the other end, though, as Chikhura broke quickly and Lekvtadze rifled a 20-yard drive narrowly over.
Aberdeen, with sole striker Cosgrove isolated, looked increasingly fragile at the back and they were sliced open down the left but Chikhura failed to capitalise.
The visitors regrouped in the final half hour and enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure. They were rewarded when Hedges dashed into the box, Maisashvili flicked the ball with his arm and Cosgrove gave the keeper no chance with a superb penalty arrowed into the net.
Lewis was required to tip a powerful Chitishvili drive over and claw away a close-range Mikheil Ergemlidze effort as Aberdeen lived dangerously in the final minutes.
'Good result but not a sparkling performance' - analysis
Former Aberdeen and Scotland defender Willie Miller on Sportsound
McInnes will be happy with the result, and an away scoring draw. Looking at the quality out there he'll be more than confident that Aberdeen can take care of this team back at Pittodrie. It hasn't been a sparkling performance - workmanlike at times - but I feel it's another game under their belt so they'll be sharper at Pittodrie too.
Former Aberdeen and Scotland striker Billy Dodds on Sportsound
I don't think it's been a test in terms of opposition, I think it's been a test for the manager in acting instantly. It took a few formation and personnel changes, because you are a few men down from injury so you don't have two for every position to just slot one in. It wasn't looking great for a while but a third tweak and that was them back in the game.
- 8MaisashviliBooked at 66mins
- 2ChitishviliSubstituted forChikhladzeat 74'minutes
- 10LekvtadzeBooked at 9minsSubstituted forPantsulaiaat 76'minutes
- 12ErgemlidzeBooked at 21mins
- 14TaylorBooked at 14minsSubstituted forBrysonat 18'minutes
- 21GallagherSubstituted forWilsonat 82'minutes
- Horatiu Fesnic
- Shots on Target