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Aberdeen's Euro success based on keeping their cool

ADAM Rooney chooses to place the emphasis on the brighter elements of Aberdeen's successful return to European competition when confronted by the toxic spectre of match-fixing now hanging over every level of the game.

Adam Rooney remains calm to score from the penalty spot against Daugava Riga                             Photograph: SNS
Adam Rooney remains calm to score from the penalty spot against Daugava Riga Photograph: SNS

Hard on the heels of the Scottish Football Association being contacted by the National Crime Agency over concerns surrounding Scotland's recent friendly match with Nigeria in London, much of the build-up to the Pittodrie side's 5-0 victory over Daugava Riga in the first qualifying round of the Europa League had been overshadowed by reports stating that Uefa had pinpointed the match for special attention.

There has been no suggestion, as yet, of any formal investigation being opened into the fixture with sources inside Aberdeen claiming they have had no contact with European football's governing body.

However, the seven yellow cards and two red cards given against Daugava during an alarmingly ill-disciplined display - coupled with patterns noticed on a prominent betting exchange - raised eyebrows among the conspiracy theorists on a number of gambling and football-related internet forums.

Match fixing has certainly emerged as a serious issue within professional football across the globe, with three men having been found guilty in England last month and seven members of Cameroon's World Cup squad facing allegations of helping to rig a match.

Rooney, though, remains unconvinced there was anything untoward at play in the Granite City last week. He believes Riga simply lost their composure due to being outplayed and overrun from the first whistle and expects the professionalism of his own side in Thursday's second leg to make sure a tie with Groningen of Holland in the next round is safely secured.

"I don't know if there is any truth in Uefa watching the game or not," said the Irishman, who got his season off to a promising start by scoring twice. "They did have two sent off, but I don't think it was anything like that. I think it is just the way the game went. A couple of their lads probably got frustrated because we were dominating when they wanted to get through. They probably came here thinking they could get a good result and frustration does take over at times.

"I don't think there were any straight reds. The sendings off were for a couple of yellows, collected for late tackles, which happens in games. We were moving the ball around against 10 men, legs get tired and that is when late tackles happen. Teams want to get through to the next round and it was always going to be competitive. There were always going to be tackles. We will just look after ourselves in the return and be professional."

Rooney has joined his manager, Derek McInnes, in praising the French referee, Nicolas Rainville, for the protection he offered Aberdeen's players last week and expects the officials appointed by Uefa for the second leg to show a similar approach should Daugava continue to get physical.

"I thought the officials handled the game well and I am sure they will be good in the return," he said. "I think they have to be good at this level and I am sure they want to progress through the competition too. I don't think anyone got any serious injuries and I don't think the tackles were as bad as everyone seemed to make out."

Rooney did receive a yellow card for a late challenge on the Daugava goalkeeper, Emilijus Zubas, but McInnes' side generally kept their composure in the face of some wild challenges. The former Inverness forward believes self-control when coming up against all manner of different approaches will be important should the Pittodrie side progress in the competition.

"The discipline within the team is fairly strong," he said. "There is a lot of experience in the group with Russell [Anderson] organising at the back and Barry [Robson] and Willo [Flood] in the middle. Willo is usually the angry one and even he keeps his head.

"If we were to get through to the group stage, we would no doubt face teams who would have the majority of the ball. A lot of European teams will keep possession, move it well and be technically very good. It can become frustrating at times, but that is where you need to keep your discipline and stick to your game-plan. I am sure the gaffer will have us well drilled on how we set up against each team should we get through."

Rooney has previous experience of the Europa League group stage with Birmingham City and wants to make up for the disappointment of the 2011-12 season when the English club missed out on a place among the last 32 to Bruges and Sporting Braga, despite taking 10 points from their six matches.

"I managed to score one in Europe against Maribor from about the same distance as my second one against Daugava Riga," he said. "At Birmingham, we only had one qualifier, against Nacional of Portugal, because we had won the League Cup. I would love to experience the group stage again. It was unbelievable we didn't get through. I played in four of the games and it was a great experience. The fans loved going away to the games as well.

"I hope Aberdeen can take a few supporters away with us this week and I am sure we will take more to Holland if we get through safely."

Barry Robson missed a penalty kick early in the win over Daugava after taking the ball from Rooney, but handed him the responsibility of scoring from the 12-yard mark after Aberdeen had been given another spot-kick in the second half.

"I obviously want to take them, but I am sure Baz will score the next one should he be back on them," said Rooney. "There are about 10 lads on the pitch who want to take penalties and it is good to have that. There was no harm done."

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