PAOK Salonika 2-2 Aberdeen: Barry Robson's side out despite Jamie McGrath stunner

Aberdeen's Jamie McGrath scores with a free-kick
Jamie McGrath's incredible free-kick earned Aberdeen a draw in Greece

Aberdeen were eliminated from the Europa Conference League despite Jamie McGrath's sensational free-kick snatching a point against PAOK Salonika in Greece.

The Irishman's set-piece strike from 25 yards pulled the Scottish Premiership side level after Taison and Mbwanna Samatta had given the hosts the lead.

A delightful Duk goal early in the first half instilled confidence in imposing conditions, but Barry Robson's side ultimately came up short again in a European thriller.

Still without a win after four games in Group G, their faint hopes of progressing to the knockout stages were extinguished by Eintracht Frankfurt's win in Helsinki.

Without their talisman Bojan Miovski, all Aberdeen attention turned to Duk, a player who has fallen below the scintillating standards he set last season.

But in striking first to pacify the pulsing PAOK crowd, the Cape Verde international exploded back onto the scene.

A long ball over the top allowed McGrath to drill a pass Duk's way, with the forward effortlessly and brutally providing a touch, turn, and finish to forge an away lead.

The equaliser was similarly out of nowhere, as a quick home break ended with a clinical finish from the veteran Taison to dampen the visitors' spirit.

After going close from a fizzed Graham Shinnie cross, Aberdeen had to soak up pressure.


Slobodan Rubezic poked the ball of his own post; Stefan Schwab just missed Taison's outrageous pass. Melees and madness, but Aberdeen survived to the break. Just.

Beside an early rocket from Giannis Konstantelias, which was tipped around a post by Kelle Roos, the visitors once again found shape and fortitude to frustrate the Greek side.

Their resolve was broken though in disappointingly soft fashion as a second ball looped into the box was nodded home by Samatta.

The memory of PAOK's cruel comeback at Pittodrie remained fresh in Aberdeen minds, so when McGrath slammed home from distance, a sense of revenge was rife in their ranks.

That home sucker-punch was sealed by a VAR awarded penalty, but this time, technology was Aberdeen's saviour. Kostantinos Koulierakis' stumble to the deck was both soft and from an offside position.

Robson's men needed to throw everything forward to keep their European dreams alive, but were instead forced to fend for their lives as qualification moved beyond their reach.

Player of the match - Nicky Devlin (Aberdeen)

What could have been for Aberdeen - analysis

This game exemplified Aberdeen's entire continental campaign, one that will be looked back on with thoughts of what could have been.

Disappointment in Frankfurt. Frustration against Helsinki. Heartbreak at home to PAOK. Throughout the group stage, Robson's side just couldn't get over the line despite some flashes of belonging at this level.

In Greece, they were unfazed by a formidable crowd and unawed by admirable opposition. PAOK demolished Hearts earlier this season, but in two games against Aberdeen, they were asked serious questions.

A defence that has been ropey at times in the Premiership looked relatively assured, as the entire team stayed compact to conceal the space in which PAOK thrive.

Duk's devastating opener will give the manager hope that he can once again impress in domestic competition, especially beside his old pal Miovski, whose presence may have just bolstered the visitors' belief that wee bit more.

With thoughts of progression now firmly in the rear-view mirror, Aberdeen's focus now must fully be on the road ahead.

They no longer have European excuses, and must start the charge sooner rather than later if they are to return to the stage from which the curtain has now fallen.

What they said

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson: "I was so proud of them tonight. They gave us everything.

"This is a team who beat Eintracht Frankfurt here. This is a team who beat Olympiacos 4-2 at the weekend. This is a team who have been heavily invested in. We came and we went toe-to-toe with them.

"They are a new team. They haven't spent a lot of time on the training pitch together. They're also in a cup final, so we can only grow. We lacked that bit at the end, but you've got to remember this is real top quality we're up against."

What's next?

It is another tough task at the weekend as they head to play Celtic on Sunday (14:30 GMT) before their next Conference League outing at HJK Helsinki on Thursday, 30 November (19:45).