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European tour ends at home for Aberdeen

Aberdeen's European dream, boosted by two goals in this compelling tie, fizzled-out as Real Sociedad replied to a series of second-half attacks with two late goals to allow them to go into the draw for the next round.

Peter Pawlett and Mark Reynolds had given the home side hope with goals either side of the interval and enthusiasm in this second leg of the Europa League third round qualifier was high, despite an opener by the Spanish side's captain, Xabi Prieto, who also converted a penalty four minutes from the end.

Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, had a couple of surprises to spring as he released details of his line-up 40 minutes before kick-off as he asked David Goodwillie, in his first start since joining the club in the summer, to re-ignite this tie with a goal-scoring performance of the type he showed before Blackburn Rovers paid Dundee United £2m to take him to Ewood Park three years ago.

That Adam Rooney, expected to lead the line, found himself on the bench to allow his team-mate his opportunity raised as many eyebrows around the stadium as the relegation to the bench of Barry Robson did.

It must be remembered that only on six occasions on home turf did the Pittodrie side score more than one goal; not the kind of statistic to worry opposition which defeated Barcelona last term and also appeared in the Champions League.

McInnes also called upon the pace of Jonny Hayes and Peter Pawlett and the creativity of Niall McGinn to make inroads against a Spanish side still working on their build-up for the league season.

Sociedad's scorers in the first leg - David Zurutuza and Sergio Canales - were in their squad. The latter was, however, left on the bench to immerse himself in the noisy atmosphere of 20,000 hopeful home supporters.

The atmosphere they created was appreciated by the Aberdeen players early on as Pawlett excited the crowd with a run down the left before being tripped by Gorka Elustondo, and then by McGinn's ambitious chip which went over the crossbar.

Still, there were moments that caused a fluttering of Aberdeen hearts, none more than Willo Flood's nonsensical tap into space in his own penalty area for Chori Castro to prod the ball towards Alfred Finnbogason, who was unable to make the home side pay for the error. Flood gave the ball away again not long after that, but Finnbogason failed to capitalise once more.

Those moments did, though, shine a light on some unwanted flaws in the make up of the home side and when Zurutuzasent a corner kick in from the left, Prieto headed the ball down past Jamie Langfield. Sociedad were ahead after 28 minutes.

Suddenly, the task facing McInnes' men became insurmountable. The pressed on manfully, however, and Pawlett prodded a loose ball into the net two minutes before the break and after Goodwillie's stinging shot had been blocked. That game a faint hope that a miracle might just be around the corner.

Had Langfield failed to execute an important acrobatic save to thwart Finnbogason once more a minute later, however, the response from the fans would have quickly faded.

That goal for the hosts meant the interest and enthusiasm from their supporters was palpable. McInnes had said before the game that he did not wish to employ gung-ho tactics, but caution was thrown to the wind after the break as Hayes - who was angry that a foul against him as he raced forward had not been penalised - scythed down Joseba Zaldua, his challenger, and was shown a yellow card for his trouble.

Then with 57 minutes played, the excitement multiplied and the tie became much more interesting as McGinn whipped over a cross from the left and Mark Reynolds, sprinting into the area with purpose, headed the ball into the net to raise the decibel levels even higher.

If Spanish nerves were affected it did not show. Sociedad soaked up a series of attacks and the introduction of Rooney, who was sent on to partner Goodwillie - Pawlett's pace was sacrificed - in search of an elusive third goal.

The side from the Basque country weathered a series of attacks as they sought to counter and when Canales fired in a left-foot shot late on and the ball whizzed past Langfield's left-hand post, Aberdeen were reminded of the potential to be hit by a sucker punch.

Such a blow arrived with four minutes remaining as Shaleum Logan, beaten by the speed of Zaluda, pulled down the defender in the area. Logan was shown a yellow card and then watched as Prieto chipped a delicate spot-kick home to signal the departure of many disappointed Aberdeen fans, most of whom had gone by the time Markel Bergara had headed home a third.

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