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Ryan Hedges scores from corner as Aberdeen make Europa League progress

Aberdeen v NSI Runavik – UEFA Europa League – First Qualifying Round – Pittodrie Stadium
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Ryan Hedges scored direct from a corner as Aberdeen beat Viking 2-0  in their Europa League qualifier at the Viking Stadion.

In the one-legged tie in Norway both sides had chances in a wide-open first half before Ross McCrorie fired in a drive to put the visitors ahead just before the break.

Aberdeen’s lead was fragile but Hedges, who scored a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over NSI Runavik in the last round, eased the nerves in the 78th minute when his inswinging corner from the right flew straight in at the far post.

The result saw the Dons extend their winning run to six games and will play Sporting Lisbon away in the third qualifier.

The Granite City men survived a scare in the first minute when home striker Zymer Bytyqi dragged a shot wide from inside the box but they were soon on the front foot.

Marley Watkins’ header from a Jonny Hayes  cross in the sixth minute was tipped over the bar by Iven Austbo – the home side survived the corner – and the Viking keeper then made a decent save from a McCrorie drive.

The visitors should have scored in the 15th minute when Scott Wright was sent through by Hedges but his unconvincing shot was blocked by Austbo.

The home side threatened again.

Dons defender Andrew Considine did well to prevent Ylldren Ibrahimaj getting in a clean shot from close range, with Dons keeper Joe Lewis gathering, and the Viking player missed the target with a header moments later.

Dylan McGeouch – in for Matty Kennedy – Lewis Ferguson and Watkins all had efforts for the Premiership side without success.

However, in the 44th minute McCrorie rifled low into the net after Wright’s shot was blocked following a corner, although Slovakian referee Filip Glova had a long chat with his assistant – there was a suggestion of offside – before confirming the goal.

Viking striker Veton Berisha came close with a drive from 14 yards at the start of the second half following a well-worked corner to remind the Pittodrie men that work had yet to be done.

The match swung from end to end

Watkins, Wright and Hayes had shots blocked and Ferguson went close with a drive.

Aberdeen, though, lived dangerously at times.

Bytyqi flashed a shot just over the bar and in the 72nd minute Lewis saved from Berisha and again Bytyqi cleared the bar from the rebound.

However, when Hedges curled his corner into the net, the relief was palpable and Aberdeen managed the rest of the game to ease into the next round.