Nine goals conceded in two games, only two scored. Numerous injuries, confidence low, and a visit from Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. Sounds like the sort of thing nightmares are made of. But Jimmy Calderwood and his Aberdeen side almost made it a dream come true with a fantastic performance against the tournament favourites in the UEFA Cup.
The starting eleven looked slightly cobbled together, with 18-year old Middlesbrough loanee Josh Walker making his European debut, and two injury forced changes in Lee Mair and Sone Aluko coming in for Jackie McNamara and Derek Young.
But the changes in the side didn’t seem to unsettle the Dons too much as they came close to a penalty in the opening minutes after Aluko’s cross was seemingly handled by Bayern midfielder Andreas Ottl. The Germans got away with it but it certainly signaled Aberdeen’s intent to attack. But the first real chance fell to Christian Lell; the fullback’s 30-yarder was well saved by Jamie Langfield.
Aluko was very lively and his inswinging free-kick was inches from Zander Diamond before Martin Demichelis cleared. The first goal wasn’t far away though and debutant Walker linked up well with his fellow loanee Aluko to fire a well-placed shot into the corner of Michael Rensing’s goal. Bayern seemed unable to clear the ball in the box and Aberdeen fully deserved their lead.
It wasn’t to last however, and Miroslav Klose showed what he can do by getting onto the end of Ze Roberto’s long ball to bury the ball in the back of the net. The impressive Langfield was close, but unfortunately for the Reds, not close enough.
The Bundesliga side went close twice again, first through Ze Roberto and then Miroslav Klose, but the mercurial Aberdeen held firm, showing the type of form that has gotten them this far in the tournament.
As half-time approached, it looked as though Aberdeen would go into the dressing room with honours even, but the irrepressible Aluko had other ideas, and latching onto Lee Miller’s flick-on, skipped past Christian Lell to hit a sweet shot past Rensing, who should have done better. The Bayern fans must have been wishing they’d stayed at home at this point. Their team had clearly underestimated the Dons, perhaps quite rightly given their opponent’s form going into this game. 2-1 at half time and unsurprisingly the fans couldn’t believe it.
All it would take was digging in and maybe getting another goal to secure a fantastic result ahead of next week’s tie at the Allianz Arena. But the Germans started the second half more brightly than Aberdeen, probably having had a kick up the backside at halftime by Ottmar Hitzfeld, and won a penalty after the unfortunate Alan Maybury handled Ze Roberto’s cross.
Langfield was again outstanding to save from Hamit Altintop but the Turk buried the rebound. Once again all square and it seemed like Aberdeen were starting to dig in and fight to stay in the match. They were clearly tiring and their chances were being kept to a minimum by a Bayern defence strengthened by the half-time arrival of Philip Lahm on for Christian Lell.
Bayern on the other hand were pushing forward constantly. Jamie ‘Clangers’ Langfield shook off his unfortunate nickname with yet another save from substitute Lukas Podolski. Steve Lovell came on for the ineffective Darren Mackie but it made little difference as Klose broke forward again to get on the end of a Lahm pass. His effort was blocked and Aberdeen cleared to avert yet another crisis.
Aberdeen managed to win themselves a corner, but it was taken poorly by Josh Walker, who seemed to be tiring. Karim Touzani came on to replace him but it seemed to be too little too late. The Dons had a chance to win it late on when Zander Diamond latched onto a freekick but his header went straight into Michael Rensing’s arms.
At the other end, Diamond stumbled over the ball and almost gifted a winner to Klose, but Langfield was once again there to save the day. They managed to survive through three minutes of added time to secure an excellent draw against a side who spent big last summer.
It was without a doubt their best performance of the tournament so far, perhaps of the entire season. It’s a lot to expect for them to win in Germany, but one thing is for sure; if Aberdeen played this way week in, week out, they’d be challenging the Old Firm this season.