Date: 6th June 2008 at 11:40am
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Looking back, it’s incredible what we could have done in the January transfer window, come the end of part two in this season review. We were 5th in the league, through to the semi-finals of the league cup, still to play in the Scottish Cup and through to the last 32 of the UEFA Cup where we’d meet Bayern Munich. And what did we do? Sold two of our best players in Chris Clark and Michael Hart and replaced them with Stuart Duff and three loanees in Michael Hart, Chris Clark and Dave ‘which sport are we playing again?’ Bus.

The first game of 2008 for Aberdeen was at home to ‘local’ rivals Inverness. There were a few scares here and there and it took an 83rd minute penalty from Barry Nicholson to give Aberdeen an unconvincing three points. Was this the start of the end of Aberdeen’s so far great season?

A week later, Aberdeen were held to their first 0-0 draw in something like 24 months away at Falkirk. Jonathan Smith finally made an appearance for us in the closing minutes but his only contribution was adding a yellow card to his name.

Then of course, that unexplainable thing happened. How often are teams drawn against each other in the cup so they play the team they’re due to play in the league days earlier or later? Well, Aberdeen met Falkirk in Falkirk again that Wednesday in the Scottish Cup. Jamie Smith did brilliantly to finish off an open goal from 20 yards in the 4th minute but Falkirk equalised within 30 seconds through Darren Barr. But Aberdeen restored their lead through Steve Lovell. He gave the ball the slightest of touches and completely wrong footed the keeper. But, Falkirk, who had had most of the possession in the 2nd half, got a deserved replay when Riera equalised with 73 minutes played.

One week on in the league, Aberdeen were laughed off the park at Tannadice. After a goalless first half, Jamie Langfield took too long to clear in the 50th minute and the ball hit the back of Noel Hunt and rolled right into the middle of the empty net. With 15 minutes left though, Barry Nicholson had the chance to level it from the penalty spot. But, Mr Cool almost missed the stand with his effort and to rub salt into the wounds, United went right up the other end to add a 2nd through Barry Robson. And Robson got his 2nd and United’s 3rd 10 minutes later when his free-kick somehow went under the wall and past Langfield.

Falkirk then visited Pittodrie for the cup replay and there was no messing about this time. Jamie Smith gave the Dons the lead with 19 minutes on the clock and Jeffrey De Visscher got a 2nd on the stroke of half time. Smith practically sealed the victory in the 55th minute although Falkirk did at least get a goal 8 minutes later but it was not enough as Aberdeen marched on to the 5th round.

It was Hearts turn to pay a visit to Aberdeen one week on and in a messy encounter, Hearts deservedly took all three points thanks to a 55th minute goal from Christian Nade.

Back to cup football however, this time against Hamilton. And it was known Hamilton were the opponents less than 48 hours before kick off due to something that happened in the previous round. Brechin City had beaten Hamilton 2-1 a.e.t. but when it was discovered they’d played an ineligible player they were fined 10’000 pounds and forced to replay the replay. But when it was discovered they’d fielded two ineligible players they were thrown out of the tournament. Hamilton, who ended up champions of division 1 with weeks left to play, proved to be tough opposition, or maybe just the bad Aberdeen team turned up that day. Because it took a striker’s finish from defender Zander Diamond in the 62nd minute to put Aberdeen through to the quarter-finals to play Celtic.

That Tuesday, it was cup football again, this time in the league cup semi-final against Dundee United. The whole of Tynecastle was up for it, except the 11 men wearing the white of Aberdeen. We did take the lead through Considine in the 19th minute. We held the lead for 4 minutes, as Dods equalised for United. Kalvenes went on to add a 2nd, Conway a 3rd and Gomis a 4th to humiliate Aberdeen in front of the whole of Scotland. A lot of passion was lost that night, as hundreds of scarves and other various items found their way onto the pitch, as early as 20 minutes before the final whistle. Many Aberdeen players left the field almost in tears, as they had embarrassed themselves and every Dons fan the world over.

They had the chance to make up for it in the slightest when Celtic were the opponents that week in the league. And boy did they not. Darren Mackie missed another open goal with 10 minutes played. And when the scoreline at half-time was 3-0 to Celtic thanks to Nakamura, McGeady and McDonald, we had paid the price quite blatantly. They showed no signs of giving up though, Celtic that is, as they added a 4th 3 minutes in to the 2nd half. Lee Miller scored a goal that nobody celebrated in the 62nd minute when his shot hit the underside of the bar and went in. But any chance of making the scoreline half decent was gone when Barry ‘I love to score against Aberdeen’ Robson, scored with his first touch in Celtic colours. He came on as a substitute, and Celtic immediately won a free-kick. He casually bent in round the wall and into the net to complete the scoring at 5-1.

The optimism of the game against Bayern Munich at Pittodrie that Thursday had almost completely died down. But, the stadium was packed and Aberdeen had the spotlight of Scotland and most of Europe on them when they pulled off one of the greatest results in the club’s history. Not many Aberdeen or any football fans could believe it when Aberdeen took the lead with 24 minutes played. Zander Diamond poked the ball to Miller who headed it to Aluko. The Birmingham loanee unselfishly turned to lay it off to fellow Englishman Josh Walker who effortlessly curled the ball round 6 players and into the Bayern net. Pittodrie erupted. That could have been the last goal Aberdeen would score against Bayern at Pittodrie ever, but was it? Firstly, Bayern equalised when Diamond let Klose go and he almost took the net off from 6 yards. But Jamie Langfield’s long kick out was flicked on by Miller to Aluko, who in turn flicked it over Lell, before chesting it down and volleying it underneath the helpless keeper. As the name of Sone Aluko rang around the stadium, no-one could believe it when the half-time whistle blew. Was it really 2-1 to Aberdeen?! It was, for the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half at least. Ze Roberto tried to cross the ball in but Alan Maybury, who couldn’t have possibly pulled his hand out the way, had the ball hit his arm, and the referee incredibly pointed to the spot. Even more incredibly, he showed Maybury a yellow card for his ‘sin’. Just as we thought Bayern couldn’t get any more luckier, they did. Altintop had his penalty saved by Langfield and how many penalties rebound straight to the penalty taker? Well, this one did, and Altintop made it 2-2. As I sat on my sofa here in Dubai, I let off one of those unbareable ‘YAAAoooh’-s. I thought the script was written for a 3-2 victory, to mark the 25th anniversary of Gothenburg. But it wasn’t. But the players had done us and Scotland proud, and continued with the tradition of ‘Fortress Pittodrie’ in European football.

It was back to the same old Scheidt though in the league as Aberdeen, yet again let a lead go at Easter Road to Hibs, but this time left with nothing. Zander Diamond poked the ball home in the 18th minute and the Dons missed countless chances to build on that before the break. It was 1-0 at half-time, but everything changed so quickly. Zemmama equalised 4 minutes into the 2nd half and Shiels made it 2-1 6 minutes later. Steven Fletcher rounded off the scoring in the 90th minute, the same goalscorers as the last meeting 4 games into the season.

If we thought we’d seen it all in Madrid, we hadn’t, as countless thousands of Aberdeen fans made their way to Munich for the 2nd leg of the UEFA Cup round of 32 meeting with Bayern Munich. The red army took over the Marienplatz for the whole of 21st February. The time then came to make our way to the stadium. We crammed into one of the U-bahn trains. As the train driver told some, what I can guess was, jokes as we were stuck in a dark tunnel somewhere along the line, someone shouted ‘Is anybody here fae Aberdeen?!’, before the train burst into a rather unsafe rendition of ten men went to mow. The sight of the Allianz Arena at night is something I will never forget, and the sight of the thousands of Aberdeen fans inside the stadium is something that will always be in my memory. The game got underway and Lucio opened the scoring for Bayern in the 12th minute, the ball flying through the hands of Langfield. Darren Mackie found himself clean through on goal in the 20th minute and yet again actually missed the target. Van Buyten made it 2-0 in the 36th minute and it stayed like that through till half-time. The next goal was crucial for obvious reasons. There’s a massive difference between 3-0 and 2-1. And it should have been 2-1 just minutes in to the 2nd half. The ball found it’s way to Mackie, who slid in and slid the ball into the net. The linesman inexplicably raised his flag for offside, when TV replays showed later he was yards on. For some strange reason, the TV that showed all the controversial decisions that went against Bayern, didn’t show this one. Podolski then made it 3 and then 4 in the 71st and 77th minutes. The stadium announcer would say ‘Bayern…’, the Bayern fans would shout ‘vier’, ‘Aberdeen…’ ‘null’. The guy behind me stood up and let out a big ‘F*** YOU!’, to the amusement of the surrounding red army. We then restored some pride through Steve Lovell. De Visshcer floated the ball in and Lovell popped up at the back post to head the ball low past Khan. The travelling army of Aberdeen supporters went nuts. I can only dream of what it would have been like had the goal been of any importance. Van Bommel made it 5-1 in the 85th minute.

That Sunday in the league saw something incredible happen at Rugby Park. After just 10 minutes, Jimmy Calderwood tactically substituted Josh Walker, who went down the tunnel instead of to the bench, and rightly so. He’d really done it this time. The Aberdeen support went mad for the wrong reasons. ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ and ‘Jimmy Jimmy, you’re a w***er’ echoed the Aberdeen end. And he must have felt like a right you-know-what 4 minutes later when Killie took the lead through Bryson. Wright then made it 2-0 at the break in the 41st minute. Bryson almost made it embarrassing in the 75th minute when he made it 3-0. No-one celebrated because no Aberdeen fans were left when Alan Combe scored an own goal in the 86th minute.

That Wednesday, Aberdeen didn’t make up any ground on Motherwell with a 1-1 draw with them. Zander Diamond opened the scoring in the 28th minute but one of four Smith’s equalised in the 83rd minute.

As I’ve said countless times though, all is forgiven when playing the Old Firm. For some reason, I, and most others, felt this was it. This was the time we’d end the Ibrox hoodoo. Things were going incredibly right when Steve Lovell made it 1-0 Aberdeen in the 28th minute. The ball found its way to his head, and the ball then found its way into the net. Had we held on till half-time, I feel we would have won. But in the 38th minute, how random, Christian Dailly made it one all. Charlie Adam made it 2-1 5 minutes in to the 2nd half and Kris Boyd made it 3 with 7 minutes left.

Aberdeen then met Celtic in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup. We had the chance to go to Hampden for the first time in 8 years. Seventy-eight minutes of pressure paid off when some lovely passing between De Visscher and Miller had the ball at the feet of De Visscher 10 yards from goal and he played it through Boruc’s legs and the Dons, for that moment, were going to Hampden. There are some heart-breaking things in football. But sometimes, even the death of a footballer can’t outdo the sickening last minute equaliser. The ball dropped to Severin 25 yards from his own goal and all he had to do was put it out and it was all over. He missed the ball, it fell to Nakamura. Everyone missed it except Hesselink and it would go to a replay.

A week later on Saturday, 15th March, Gretna visited Pittodrie. The team that is. There was only 16 Gretna fans, who were housed in the Main Stand. Chris Maguire scored his first goal in over a year and celebrated ridiculously with ‘the worm’ in the 40th minute. Lee Miller had taken over from Nicholson as penalty taker, and he sent the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards in the 71st minute. But it was Nicholson who made it 3-0 2 minutes later.

That Tuesday it was the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay with Celtic at Parkhead. Right on the stroke of half-time, a loose back pass was pounced on by Ricky Foster. Unfortunately, when all he had to do was take a touch round Boruc, his legs turned to jelly and he just fell over. But in the 69th minute, Aberdeen did take the lead. Gordon Strachan said before the game, if Celtic gave Aberdeen one chance they could score, and that’s what happened. Miller flicked it on after a corner to Mackie 10 yards from goal. He improvised by side volleying it low into the ground and up past Boruc. The huge band of away support deservedly were allowed to celebrate. Celtic missed chance after chance after chance and the 22 shots to 5 showed just how lucky we were. But sometimes in football, luck is what wins you games, and the Dons were going to Hampden for the first time since 2000.

I’ll say it again – AFC, every high, one low. A 1-1 draw with St Mirren at home was that this time. Dorman shocked Pittodrie when he put the visitors ahead after 10 minutes but Lee Mair, of all people, scored what turned out to be the last goal of the game to equalise for Aberdeen. We now sat in 7th, 3 points behind Falkirk and level with Inverness with two games left until the split. We needed to win both to have a chance of finishing in the top 6.

At 3pm on Saturday, 29th March, no-one could have predicted the 90 minutes ahead between Inverness and Aberdeen. A game that has gone down in at least the top three SPL classics. Lee Miller grabbed his billionth or so assist of the season with a quality long ball to Aluko. He cut inside and on his weaker right foot drilled the ball low past the Caley keeper in the 7th minute. But in the 21st minute, Dave Bus tried to duck to let the ball go out for a corner, and cruelly, the ball bounced off his head and into his own net to make it 1-1. And when Russell Duncan, ex-Aberdeen player, made it 2-1 in the 40th minute, our top 6 chances looked over. For some reason, he taunted the Aberdeen fans after he scored. ‘A game can change in one second’, or whatever the saying is, applied perfectly when Barry Nicholson made it 2-2 with his head in first half stoppage time. When the half time whistle blew, Duncan then for some reason blasted the ball into the family section of the home support and was sent off. Eight minutes into the 2nd half, Lee Miller headed the ball in from 2 yards to make it 3-2 Aberdeen. But less than 5 minutes later, it was 3-3. McNamara was so far off his man, McBain took a touch before slotting the ball in from 18 yards. Chris Maguire had come on as a half time substitute for Dave Bus. Talk about super-subs, eh. While Falkirk had drawn with Kilmarnock, our top six dreams were dead and buried. Up until the 94th minute. After a goal-line scramble, the ball popped up in the air and Maguire saw his chance and nodded the ball in. The red army scrambled to the front of the stand and mobbed Maguire. It was just like Steve Lovell’s 83rd minute winner two seasons previously that put Aberdeen in exactly the same circumstances, needing a win in their final pre-split game to finish in the top six. Grant Munro was then sent off at full time.

We thought Setanta were mad when three weeks previously, we thought our what should have been meaningless game against Falkirk was moved to a Monday night. But, it now meant all, and it set up for an incredible atmosphere. In the 22nd minute, he’d done it again. Chris Maguire headed past the keeper, it was 1-0 the Dons and we were heading for the top 6. But, 4 minutes in to the 2nd half, everything changed when Soutar spilled and Finnigan made it 1-1. Falkirk were at that moment the team finishing in the top 6. But with minutes left to play, Maguire temporarily became a hero with the Aberdeen fans. The ball was millimetres away from crossing the touchline, but Aluko kept it and passed to Maguire. He turned, and with his left foot, poked the ball in from 6 yards and 6 degrees. Instead of clearing the ball, the Falkirk player standing on the line was too busy looking at the referee for the goal-kick. And it stayed that way, 2-1, and we were in the top 6.

Look out for part four, where the Dons meet Queen of the South at Hampden, and have a late, late say in 3rd spot…