Aberdeen bowed out of the Europa League despite a plucky performance against a depleted Sporting side in Lisbon.
Facing an opponent that was missing nine players because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Scots switched off early on as Tiago Tomas struck.
Derek McInnes’ side remained in the game but rarely looked like troubling their Portuguese hosts.
It is the sixth time in seven years Aberdeen have dropped out at the third qualifying round stage.
Sporting host Lask in next week’s play-off.
This was a step into the unknown for an Aberdeen side beginning life without Scott McKenna following his move to Nottingham Forest.
A raft of Covid-19 casualties added a touch of mystique to the challenge in Portugal, the only certainty being those who were brought in from the cold were unlikely to be mugs.
And so it proved to be the case, with the hosts wrenching open the Aberdeen defence after just seven minutes. Luciano Vietto collected the ball after some dithering and turned for goal.
One drop of the shoulder and a shuttled ball out to his right caught the defence – Andrew Considine in particular – napping. Tomas was clinical in steering the ball past Joe Lewis.
To their credit, Aberdeen rallied. McInnes’ men showed bravery on the ball, but struggled to craft any real chances.
The closest they came was a deep Dylan McGeouch cross that Antonio Adam tipped over easily.
In the second half, Jonny Hayes was afforded space down the left, but the former Celtic man blazed over when he should have done better.
In truth, a mixture of poor finishing and instinctive goalkeeping kept the tie alive at the other end.
A scramble in the box was defused by Lewis’ sprawling save to halt Boges Cabral scrambling in a second, while Tomas somehow steered a free header wide after the break with the goal gaping.
Man of the match – Jonny Hayes
What did we learn?
Aberdeen lacked a cutting edge in attack. Several times they got into good positions against a classy outfit, but couldn’t muster anything to trouble them.
Crosses weren’t capitalised on, and any stray balls in the box went unclaimed. Matters could have been different if the injured Sam Cosgrove was in their ranks.
However, McInnes can be content with a showing in trying circumstances. Regardless of the fact Sporting were without several players and their coach, this was never going to be easy.
Add in that they were coming off of a 3-0 hiding to Motherwell and without McKenna, and Aberdeen deserve credit for being competitive, even if they lacked thrust in attack.
However, there may well be a feeling of what could have been after never really laying a glove on Sporting.
Aberdeen are back on domestic duty with a trip to Dingwall to face Ross County (15:00 GMT).
- 13Novo Neto
- 24PorroSubstituted forPlataat 88′minutes
- 37Valle da SilvaSubstituted forSantos Bragançaat 86′minutes
- 5Tavares Mendes
- 19TomasBooked at 64minsSubstituted forSporarat 77′minutes
- 10ViettoBooked at 30mins
- 77Boges Cabral
- 44Antunes da Silva
- 55Pacheco Antunes
- 68Santos Bragança
- 2LoganSubstituted forMcLennanat 83′minutes
- 15McGeouchSubstituted forWrightat 69′minutes
- 19FergusonBooked at 90mins
- 50WatkinsSubstituted forEdmondsonat 81′minutes