Aberdeen were responsible for one of two bright spots for Scottish teams in the Europa League on Thursday night as they beat the Dutch side FC Groningen 2-1 to secure a tie against Real Sociedad in the third qualifying round. St Johnstone provided the other as they went through on penalties against FC Luzern, but Motherwell were eliminated after a surprise defeat against the Icelandic team Stjarnan.
Aberdeen had gone into the second leg of the second qualifying round tie in the Netherlands standing at 0-0 after their first home leg at Pittodrie. But first-half goals from Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn booked their passage to the next round with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Rooney scored from the penalty spot on 26 minutes and McGinn added another goal seven minutes later by following up on a Rooney shot that had hit the bar. Aberdeen looked comfortable at that stage, but Maikel Kieftenbeld got one back just before the break for FC Groningen on 44 minutes and the visitors had to ride out some dangerous periods in the second half.
Aberdeen’s manager, Derek McInnes, said he was unsurprised by the outcome. “It’s a big result, but to be honest it’s no more than I expected,” he told BBC Radio Scotland: “Whether we are an underdog or the favourites, we always put in a shift and I always felt we could win here.”
St Johnstone went through at home in their penalty shootout courtesy of a superb save by Alan Mannus from Marco Schneuwly’s spot-kick, the second of Luzern’s five. Extra-time substitute Tam Scobbie then completed a perfect set of penalties for St Johnstone to give them a 5-4 triumph.
The match had finished 1-1 after extra-time and 2-2 on aggregate. St Johnstone had looked to be going through in normal time when Stevie May scored from the penalty spot in the second half, but the Luzern substitute Schneuwly equalised just before the hour mark and the stalemate continued until penalties.
The Perth side now face Spartak Trnava of Slovakia in the next round.
Motherwell’s 3-2 extra-time away defeat against Stjarnan of Iceland put them out of the competition 5-4 on aggregate.
The two teams had drawn 2-2 at Fir Park and Motherwell got an early goal in the away leg at Stjarnan’s 2,000-capacity stadium with a Steven Hammell header. But then Motherwell’s Keith Lasley gave away his third penalty of the two-legged tie and Olafur Finsen levelled in the 37th minute.
Lionel Ainsworth volleyed Motherwell ahead midway through the second half, but Rolf Toft took the game into extra-time with an impressive strike five minutes from the whistle, and Atli Johansson scored a spectacular winner for the home side in the second period of extra-time.
Thursday’s round of matches also decided who will meet Premier League Hull City in their first ever European tie: their opponents will be Trencin from Slovakia, who beat Serbia’s FK Vojvodina 4-3 on aggregate despite losing 3-0 on the night in their away leg. Hull leapfrog into the third qualifying round by dint of losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup final last season.
Elsewhere in the Europa League, Northern Ireland’s Linfield were unable to hold on to their 1-0 home-leg lead against Sweden’s AIK Solna, although they lasted for 56 minutes until Kennedy Igboananike put Solna ahead. Henok Goitom then got the crucial second goal 18 minutes from time to put the Swedes through 2-1 on aggregate.
Linfield’s fellow NIFL Premiership side Crusaders also went out at the second qualifying stage after drawing 1-1 at home to IF Brommapojkarna after losing the first leg in Sweden 4-0. The Crusaders captain, Colin Coates, gave his side hope by putting them ahead with 17 minutes gone, but Dardan Rexhepi equalised within 10 minutes to secure a 5-1 aggregate win.
Derry City’s hopes of progression were ended in emphatic fashion in Belarus by Shakhtyor Soligorsk. Derry cancelled out Shakhtyor’s 1-0 first-leg lead with a sixth minute goal from Michael Duffy but the home side were back on terms within three minutes through Sergei Balanovich and further goals from Alexander Guruli, Dmitri Osipenko, Nikolai Yanush and Ilya Galyuza secured a 6-1 aggregate victory.