Aberdeen manager Barry Robson was “gutted but so proud” after his side’s Europa Conference League qualification hopes ended with a 2-2 draw against PAOK in Greece.

Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes hit an early opener for the Dons who later quickly fought back from 2-1 down when Jamie McGrath scored a 30-yard free-kick in the 70th minute.

The Dons went for the win by putting on top goalscorer Bojan Miovski to join Duk up front but the home side finished the stronger team and both they and Eintracht Frankfurt sealed their place in the knockout stages.

The Dons have two points after suffering a narrow defeat in Germany and losing a two-goal lead to PAOK last time out as well as drawing with HJK Helsinki in an eventful encounter.

Robson told RedTV after the game in Thessaloniki: “A difficult one to take. You can see how good a side they are – they beat Olympiacos 4-2 at the weekend, they beat Eintracht Frankfurt here.

“We went toe to toe with them and gave them a real go and we have drawn 2-2. The home game we were 2-0 up after 78 minutes. I think Eintracht Frankfurt away was one of our best performances you will see in Europe for a long, long time.

“I sit here so frustrated and disappointed because we deserve to have more points on the board.

“We have been outstanding against some brilliant teams. If you go back to the Hacken games, Helsinki when we missed the chances, Eintracht Frankfurt away, two PAOK games, we have been outstanding. Little, wee details cost us.

“I am so gutted but I am so proud of my players. We have come into Europe and had a real go and that’s what I wanted.”

Robson believes his side will be better for the experience.

“It’s all about learning,” the former Celtic midfielder said. “I did it myself as a player, in every European game you get better, better and better.

“This is new to a lot of them, and these are big group games against
proper, proper teams.

“We passed the ball really well for bits in the first half and you know, with the quality they have, we are going to have to defend. We did that.

“I thought we might have carried a bit more of a threat but in the end we had a go, as hard as it was because of how heavy-legged the players were.

“I am so proud, and so proud of those fans. They were absolutely bouncing and they could see we tried to give them a win.”

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson maintained his pride in his side’s performance after their Europa Conference League defeat at the hands of Group G pacesetters PAOK Salonika, but questioned the purpose of VAR after a controversial evening.

It had all been going according to plan for Robson’s side, who weathered a first-half storm before going 2-0 up by the hour mark thanks to classy finishes from Bojan Miovski and Dante Polvara.

Defensive errors allowed the visitors to find their way back into the game, substitute Kiril Despodov handing his side a lifeline before captain Vieirinha fired home an 84th-minute leveller.

There was further heartbreak as a VAR-awarded penalty was converted by Stefan Schwab to complete the turnaround and seal a 3-2 win.

But what grabbed the ire of Robson was the lack of intervention from VAR Alan Kijas in what looked a stonewall spot-kick for the Dons when Jack MacKenzie was kicked in the penalty area with the score at 2-1.

“We all know the answer,” he said when asked if he felt his side had been denied a penalty. “We all make mistakes. I make mistakes, and we lost the game with players making mistakes.

“When VAR comes in, they’re there to look at things six times, and they still get it wrong? That’s my problem.”

Responding to suggestions there was no check for the incident, Robson fumed: “If that’s the case, what are they doing here? You’re as well taking it away. I’m told they’re supposed to check every incident.

“I don’t want to make it about that though. I want to make it about my players. We’ve lost 3-2 and am I frustrated? Yes. But I’m so proud of them.

“Mistakes happen in football, but I thought tactically they were excellent and we got better as the game went on. We should have had at least a point, and I’m just frustrated that we didn’t take at least a point.”

The first PAOK goal came directly after a triple substitution, and Robson explained the reasoning for the changes, saying: “We had to make them. The players were drained. We were trying to get them on earlier, and we were actually thinking about making more.”

Aberdeen’s hopes of navigating a route through the Europa Conference League Group stage suffered a major blow as they threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against PAOK Salonika on a rollercoaster night at Pittodrie.

Having weathered heavy pressure in a goalless first half, Barry Robson’s men found themselves two goals to the good by the hour mark thanks to Bojan Miovski and Dante Polvara.

But a stunning comeback saw the Greek side take three points after goals from substitutes Kiril Despodov and captain Vieirinha, and a stoppage-time penalty, awarded after a VAR check, from Stefan Schwab.

The Dons started brightly and after nine minutes, a free-kick earned by Graeme Shinnie 25 yards out gave Connor Barron the chance to fire towards goal, but his effort was over the crossbar.

That seemed to awaken the visitors, who had eased their way into the game. A moment of brilliance from Ioannis Konstantelias saw the forward dance through the Dons defence before rolling a low shot off the base of the left-hand post.

The Dons were getting some joy on the left though, and Jamie McGrath’s industry saw him win the ball high up before being unceremoniously dumped by Schwab who picked up a yellow card for his troubles.

As time elapsed, the away side started to find openings, and a counter led by Konstantelias saw Kelle Roos come off his line to block the striker’s attempted chip.

The Dutch keeper was again well-placed just two minutes later to hold Schwab’s back-post header from a corner as the Dons held out for the half-time whistle.

But the home side came out all guns blazing after the break, with Barron claiming for a penalty after a kick to the head almost straight after the restart. The same man then swung in a free-kick that was headed by Polvara, forcing Dominik Kotarski into a first save of the game.

And two minutes later, the Dons were in front.

Again, it came from the left with McGrath and Jack MacKenzie exchanging passes before the latter drilled in a low cross which Miovski was able to swivel on before placing low into the bottom-left corner.

Soon after, it was two.

Barron picked up the ball in his own half and drove forward, finding Miovski who in turn released Polvara one-on-one with the keeper. The American kept his cool and dinked beyond Kotarski to send the Red Shed behind the goal into ecstasy.

The Greek side, however, pulled a goal back after 74 minutes, and it was an easy finish for substitute Despodov who stroked home with his first touch after being played in by Konstantelias, who took full advantage of Richard Jensen’s untimely slip.

Aberdeen could have had a penalty almost instantly as MacKenzie took a tumble in the box, but there was no award forthcoming.

The visitors took full advantage to draw level as Jonny Hayes’ clearing header proved wayward, falling for Vieirinha to smash an angled drive past a helpless Roos, with the aid of a deflection.

Aberdeen suddenly sprung back to life with chances for Jensen and McGrath late in the game and looked like holding on for a point before a late VAR award against Slobodan Rubezic allowed Schwab to complete the comeback.

Ollie Watkins continued his red-hot form as Aston Villa cruised to a statement 4-1 Europa Conference League win at AZ Alkmaar.

The striker netted his 10th goal of the season and fourth in Europe this season on Thursday.

Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans – his first for Villa – put them in control in AZ Stadium after less than 25 minutes.

Vangelis Pavlidis wasted the hosts’ best chances but Watkins and John McGinn added more goals after the break in Holland before Ibrahim Sadiq grabbed a consolation.

It was the second time in two games Villa had scored four after their 4-1 Premier League win over West Ham on Sunday.

Unai Emery celebrated a year in charge on Tuesday and victory underlined the progress his side have made, having been floundering in 14th and three points above the relegation zone 12 months ago.

Villa host Alkmaar in two weeks knowing victory would see them take a giant leap to the knock-out stages, especially following an opening 3-2 defeat at Legia Warsaw in September.

After two games in Group E, all four teams were locked on three points but Villa moved to remedy that quickly, opening the scoring just 13 minutes in.

Watkins seized on a loose pass from Yukinari Sugawara and, while Boubacar Kamara’s ball was cut out, it fell for Bailey to control and rifle in low from the edge of the box.

Alkmaar cried handball but the goal stood and 10 minutes later, the hosts were 2-0 down.

Another poor pass, this time from Sven Mijnans, went straight to McGinn and his angled pass found Tielemans to bag his first Villa goal.

Yet, 90 seconds later, the hosts should have pulled a goal back when Pavlidis fired over with just Emi Martinez to beat after Kamara was dispossessed on the edge of the box.

Pavlidis had a goal disallowed for offside soon after but Villa regrouped and extended their lead six minutes after the break.

AZ were picked apart by Watkins, Tielemans and Bailey, who saw his shot saved by Matt Ryan but it fell perfectly for Watkins to tap in the rebound.

Five minutes later McGinn added a fourth when he turned in Bailey’s low cross at the near post.

Sadiq pulled a surprise goal back with 25 minutes left when he latched onto Bruno Martins Indi’s crossfield pass and drilled the ball into the corner from the edge of the box.

Tiago Dantas came close to a second, Tielemans deflecting his drive behind, with a comeback never on the cards.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson felt his team wasted an opportunity to defeat HJK Helsinki and register their first win in the Europa Conference League.

The Reds dominated the match against their Finnish opponents but they failed to make their possession count as the teams played out a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie.

Robson said: “I am frustrated because we deserved to win the game.

“I am disappointed with the goal we lost because it was their only shot at goal but that was testament to the way we defended and pressed.”

“The frustration comes from having 17 shots and only scoring once.  We needed to be a bit more clinical and had we been done so, I think we could have won that game by three of four.”

“That was a good performance.”

“That is five games in a row where we have really performed and we have scored 11 goals but the sucker punch is Helsinki scoring with their one real chance.”

Robson was unimpressed by the standard of refereeing after Duk suffered a nasty head injury following an apparent elbow from Georgios Kanellopoulous in the first half.

Polish referee Daniel Stefanski was not asked by the VAR official to review the incident, which resulted in the Cape Verde international requiring treatment.

Robson said: “I was massively surprised he was not asked to look at it.

“I need to be careful on what I comment on but I think we all know the level of player and the level of game has to be officiated at the correct standard.

“I did not think the standard was correct tonight.

“There were a lot of things that happened out on the pitch that were not right for me.”

Boss Unai Emery insists Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Zrinjski Mostar proves why their European rivals must be respected.

John McGinn’s added-time header saved Villa’s skins in the Europa Conference League.

Mostar, who beat AZ Alkmaar 4-3 last month, defended heroically and were two minutes away from a battling point at Villa Park.

It leaves Group E delicately poised after Villa lost their opener 3-2 at Legia Warsaw. Their 1-0 defeat at AZ on Thursday leaves all four teams locked on three points.

Emery said: “My message is always you have to respect every team. For them it’s very important to play in Europe, against us, to show their power as well. Their commitment in 90 minutes was amazing. It was not easy to break it.

“In the second half we played very well, we had chances and we scored in the end.

“I knew before the match it was going to be difficult because they are going to defend. That happened in the first half. Hopefully we can build a team with everybody.”

The Prince of Wales was also in the crowd to see Villa’s late show.

Emery added: “It’s the third time I’ve met him, he is welcome for us. He is really feeling emotion with us as well. He met with me, the players and the coaches. We spoke about Aston Villa and his wishes following us this year.”

Mostar threatened early when Antonio Ivancic lobbed over Emi Martinez but lacked any support to follow up and the Villa goalkeeper made a smart save to deny Nemanja Bilbija.

Nicolo Zaniolo saw shots blocked and had an overhead kick saved by the visitors, who were organised and comfortable.

Villa thought they had a penalty early in the second half when Ollie Watkins’ header hit Slobodan Jakovljevic in the face. Referee Urs Schnyder gave the spot-kick for handball but correctly changed his decision after viewing the replays.

Villa then camped in the Mostar half, Diego Carlos, Youri Tielemans and Zaniolo going close before McGinn’s late intervention.

Matty Cash crossed from the right and McGinn glanced in a header from six yards to spare the Premier League side.

Mostar boss Krunoslav Rendulic said: “Aston Villa won deservedly, we gave our maximum.

“We knew we could only put up a good defence in answer to their quality. Unfortunately that effort wasn’t rewarded. If we had defended that goal it would have been a great success.

“I can’t say anything against my players. In the second half we were suffering, we couldn’t go forward. We did defend very well. We couldn’t survive until the end and the final seconds were disastrous for us.”

Aberdeen came from behind to rescue a point against HJK Helsinki in the Europa Conference League at Pittodrie.

Despite creating the best opportunities in a cagey contest, the hosts fell behind just before the hour mark through Bojan Radulovic’s strike.

However, a fine header from Bojan Miovski saw the Dons get off the mark in Group G following their opening-match defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt a fortnight ago.

Aberdeen could have been ahead in the 11th minute when Richard Jensen found space to get on the end of Leighton Clarkson’s corner but he was unable to direct his header on target from 10 yards out.

As the Dons continue to press in the early stages, HJK goalkeeper Jesse Ost came to the visitors’ rescue in the 21st minute. Stefan Gartenmann clipped a precise pass on to the head of Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes, whose glancing effort was well saved by Ost.

Having won their last three matches in all competitions, the home team looked confident and Miovski flashed a header wide from another Gartenmann centre in the 27th minute.

But two lengthy stoppages for nasty head wounds sustained by Duk and Jensen resulted in Barry Robson’s men losing some of their momentum in the run up to half-time, the latter temporarily leaving the field of play so a huge gash above his eye could be stitched up.

Early in the second half, Jamie McGrath was presented with a decent opportunity after Miovski and Clarkson combined but the Irishman, who netted in the Reds’ 3-1 against Rangers at Ibrox last weekend, shot wide from 12 yards.

However, the Finnish side offered threats of their own and Tuomas Ollila delivered an excellent low cross across the six-yard box which ought to have been snapped up by a team-mate.

That served as a warning for the Dons, who fell behind in the 59th minute. Pyry Soiri’s cutback from the right flank was swept high into the net by Radulovic from 10 yards.

Miovski should have levelled in the 71st minute when he was picked out by substitute Connor Barron but his volley down into the ground was turned behind by Ost.

But the North Macedonia international made amends in the 79th minute with a precision header to make it 1-1. Jonny Hayes, who was effective off the bench, saw his cross flicked on by Miro Tenho and Miovski superbly glanced the ball into the bottom corner.

Duk then wasted a great chance to score the winner moments later when he chased down a long punt forward only to see his shot saved by Ost as the teams shared the points.

John McGinn’s last-gasp winner saved Aston Villa from embarrassment as they laboured to an uninspiring 1-0 victory against Zrinjski Mostar.

The captain netted in the fourth minute of added time to break battling Mostar hearts.

It looks like Villa’s Europa Conference League campaign would continue to stutter until then after the hosts were left frustrated by their organised and combative opponents, who refused to buckle until stoppage time.

Despite dominating, Villa struggled to break Mostar down and had a penalty call reversed in the second half.

Referee Urs Schnyder changed his decision to award a spot-kick for handball after replays showed Ollie Watkins’ header hit Slobodan Jakovljevic in the face.

Nemanja Bilbija wasted the visitors’ best opening in the first half as the Bosnian champions fell just short in the Group E clash.

Ezri Konsa, unfortunate to be left out of the latest England squad, confessed to having never heard of the visitors. He would not have been the only one.

Boss Krunoslav Rendulic called it the biggest game in the visitors’ history and the club which gave a 17-year-old Luka Modric his professional debut were a nuisance from the start.

Antonio Ivancic briefly threatened first, lobbing the ball over Emi Martinez only to lack support, before the goalkeeper needed to parry Bilbija’s shot after Marijo Cuze’s low cross.

In between, Nicolo Zaniolo twice threatened but it was a chance Mostar should have taken. They had, at least, sapped the energy from Villa Park in the opening 20 minutes and the hosts’ frustrations were underlined when McGinn was booked for an obvious dive.

As a team Villa are still learning to adapt to European football and the opening 3-2 defeat at Legia Warsaw did little to justify their favourites tag in the competition. In the first half at Villa Park, there were even fewer hints.

Mostar fought back from 3-0 down to beat AZ Alkmaar 4-3 last month and were comfortable, Zaniolo’s overhead kick allowing goalkeeper Marko Maric to offer a save for the cameras but there was little else to trouble them.

Unai Emery had seen enough and summoned Watkins, Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash from the bench and their arrival lifted Villa.

Watkins conjured a chance for Diego Carlos, only for the defender to get his header all wrong and the striker thought he had earned a penalty eight minutes into the second half.

Cash’s cross was met by Watkins, whose header cannoned into the face of Jakovljevic – with official Schnyder giving a spot-kick for handball.

It was clear, though, the ball hit the defender in the face and once Schnyder had checked his monitor he correctly overturned the decision.

It did finally light a fire under Villa and Maric saved Diego Costa’s header as
the hosts camped in Mostar’s half for the rest of the game.

Youri Tielemans and Zaniolo went close before McGinn rescued the hosts in stoppage time.

Cash got free on the right and crossed for the midfielder to nod in from six yards.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson felt his side deserved a point from their Europa Conference League opener against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Dante Polvara stunned the home fans in the Waldstadion by cancelling out an early penalty opener before the Dons succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.

The American midfielder finished off a clinical counter-attack in the 22nd minute to net his first goal for the club and the Dons looked comfortable for the majority of the first half.

The German side stepped up a gear after the break and on-loan Leeds defender Robin Koch headed what proved to be the winner in the 61st minute.

But Frankfurt had to withstand some late pressure and unmarked Aberdeen substitute Ester Sokler missed a good chance in stoppage-time when he volleyed off target from 12 yards.

Quoted on the UEFA website, Robson said: “I am happy with the way we played and the commitment we put in, but I feel we could have deserved even more, had that once chance right before full-time whistle gone in.”

However, the Dons boss was frustrated with the manner they conceded goals.

He told RedTV: “I thought tactically we were very good, we pressed the ball at the right times. We probably could have passed it a wee bit better at times but we grew into the game.

“I am frustrated we lost (goals from) a penalty and set-play.

“That’s top, top players we are playing against, they won the Europa League not long ago and Barcelona lost here not long ago, and different teams.

“The frustration for me is that’s the type of goals we lost, ones that I think could have been avoidable.

“Listen, the players have come here and performed unbelievably well.”

Polvara admitted it was a “bittersweet game”.

“We are happy about the performance but obviously not the result,” he said. “We can take the positives from this game going forward.

“Scoring that goal was a great moment, in front of 55,000 fans. I don’t quite remember how the ball got there, it went through a couple of legs I think and then I saw that it was one of the two chances we expected we’d get before the game and I grabbed it.”

Frankfurt manager Dino Toppmoller was surprised by Aberdeen’s tactics:

“We weren’t expecting them to drop this deep but ultimately that is their choice how to play and we have to deal with it,” he said. “I am pleased with us getting the three points and the mentality we displayed.”

Aberdeen stunned Eintracht Frankfurt by equalising in the Waldstadion before succumbing to a 2-1 Europa Conference League defeat.

Dante Polvara finished off a clinical counter-attack in the 22nd minute to cancel out an early penalty opener and the Dons looked comfortable for the majority of the first half.

The German side stepped up a gear after the break and on-loan Leeds defender Robin Koch headed what proved to be the winner in the 61st minute.

But Frankfurt, third-favourites to win the competition behind Aston Villa and Fiorentina, had to withstand some late pressure and Aberdeen substitute Ester Sokler missed a good chance in stoppage-time.

Barry Robson’s side had only beaten Stirling Albion in their eight previous games this season and it looked like it might be a long night in Germany when Frankfurt took the lead inside 11 minutes.

Jack MacKenzie was caught out by a pass inside him and Dina Ebimbe muscled his way in front of the wing-back. The Frenchman went down amid a tangle of legs and MacKenzie was penalised. Omar Marmoush converted from the spot.

Aberdeen delighted their 2,900 travelling fans by drawing level against the side that beat Rangers in the 2021 Europa League final.

Bojan Miovski collected a loose pass just inside the Eintracht half and was joined by several team-mates in bursting forward. The lone striker played the ball out wide to Nicky Devlin whose low cross found Polvara, who took a touch six yards out and fired high into the net past two home players and the goalkeeper. It was the American’s first goal for Aberdeen.

Some Dons fans took their celebrations too far amid reports that a lit pyrotechnic was thrown into the home end. More missiles followed amid loud jeers from the Frankfurt fans, although they appeared to be plastic cups.

There was only one scare for the visitors before the break when Paxten Aaronson got in behind MacKenzie to meet a lofted pass. Kelle Roos got down well to stop the volley before the offside flag was raised but the VAR decision would have been interesting if the ball had gone in as there was very little in it.

Frankfurt’s winner came after some sustained pressure and Stefan Gartenmann cleared a header off the line just before the corner that made the difference. Koch managed to get away from his marker and guide a free header just inside the far post.

The home side continued to press and Gartenmann was perhaps fortunate to only receive a yellow card for a hefty challenge before Roos stopped a long-range strike from Hugo Larsson and Devlin produced a goal-saving challenge.

But Aberdeen came back into the game after a triple substitution in the 71st minute when Connor Barron, Jonny Hayes and Ryan Duncan came on.

Richard Jensen headed over from Duncan’s corner before Roos saved from Ansgar Knauff and Aberdeen then forced a series of set-pieces in the final third.

Their chance for a memorable night eventually fell for the unmarked Sokler but he went for power rather than accuracy with his volley and fired off target.

PAOK beat HJK 3-2 in Finland in the other game in Group G.

Sloppy Aston Villa crashed to a chaotic Europa Conference League defeat at Legia Warsaw.

Ernest Muci’s second-half winner spoiled Villa’s debut in the competition as Legia pulled off a deserved 3-2 victory in Poland.

Pawel Wszolek and Muci had twice given Legia a first-half lead only for Jhon Duran and Lucas Digne to peg them back.

Muci pounced six minutes into the second half and Villa never recovered.

Legia boss Kosta Runjaic had billed it as a David v Goliath tie, with Legia going into the Group E opener with hope rather than expectation. Captain Josue, pointed out the vastly different transfer values between the squads.

Maybe it was reverse psychology but they were far from overwhelmed and picked holes in Villa’s sloppy defence.

Villa are expected to not just qualify from the group with ease but challenge for the title in Athens next May but they will have to significantly improve if that is to be the case.

It look just two minutes for the energetic hosts to unpick their visitors with worrying simplicity.

Muci sent Patryk Kun scampering down the right and he crossed for the onrushing Wszolek to fire in from eight yards.

That Legia conceded 13 goals while qualifying for the group stage would have given Villa encouragement for any comeback and, sure enough, it took just four minutes to level.

Nicolo Zaniolo’s strike from 25 yards was turned onto the bar by Kacper Tobiasz and Duran reacted quickest to nod in from close range.

Villa managed to steady themselves as game settled after a rapid start, until Legia regained the lead after 26 minutes.

Again the threat came from out wide, this time from the right. Wszolek was given too much time by Digne to cross for Muci to smash in.

Defensively Villa had been weak, switching off when it mattered most, and Ezri Konsa was the next to escape when Muci went down under pressure in the area but referee Evangelos Manouchos was unmoved.

Still Legia found gaps in the Villa backline when Marc Gual tested Emi Martinez and the visitors looked far from tournament favourites.

Duran’s goal had been their only serious chance but Unai Emery’s men levelled against the run of play six minutes before the break.

Leon Bailey tricked his way through, John McGinn’s shot was blocked and fell to Digne on the edge of the box for the left-back’s deflected volley to find the top corner.

Villa had taken their opportunities to redeem themselves and Legia still needed Tobiasz’s leg to deny Duran an undeserved third just before the break.

Yet if they thought they had tamed Legia they were badly mistaken and, like the first half, the hosts wasted little time in the second.

Emery would have despaired at how open his side were when Gual picked out Muci to run at Konsa, he was pushed wide by Calum Chambers but still managed to squeeze his shot across Martinez and in off a post.

Reinforcements were needed and Ollie Watkins, Douglas Luiz and Moussa Diaby arrived but Villa almost fell further behind when Gual just failed to turn in after Martinez parried Bartosz Slisz’s drive.

From then there appeared little way back with Legia comfortable, Tobiasz never tested – even when Jacob Ramsey shot wide.

Outside of their qualifiers, it had been a long 13 years to return to Europe for Villa. It was not worth the wait.

Lee Johnson knows Hibernian have only done half a job after they earned a commanding two-goal advantage in their Europa Conference League tie against Luzern.

Joe Newell’s opener just 18 seconds into the second half was cancelled out by Ismajl Beka’s header.

But debutant Dylan Vente and Jordan Obita scored to put Hibs in a strong position heading into next Thursday’s second leg in Switzerland.

And Johnson, whose side opened their Premiership campaign with a 3-2 home defeat to St Mirren on Sunday, has told his players they have now set a standard they must reach in every game.

He said: “It’s half-time. I said in Andorra when we lost 2-1 (against Inter d’Escaldes in the previous round) that it was half-time and I’ll say that now when we’ve got a plus-two lead.

“I really like Luzern. They’re a real quality side – brilliant in terms of that education for the club, for myself, for the players.

“And I was really proud today, for the whole club. We took a bit of stick, and rightly so, for our first-half performance the other day (against St Mirren).

“But that’s what Hibs is about. The crowd were up – 13,000 felt like 25,000 – the boys were making big tackles, they had pressure on everywhere.

“But we’ve got to do that in every game. That’s a marker now for this group.

“I honestly think it’s nowhere near done, genuinely. I think they’re a really good side. They’ve got threats and quality everywhere.

“We’re extremely proud tonight but nothing is done in the tie.”

Johnson also hailed debutant Vente, whose work permit issues following his move from Roda JC in the Netherlands were resolved on the eve of the tie.

He added: “I’m delighted for Dylan. I was getting a bit of stick before the game about the team selection, and I was quite surprised. I thought it was quite a bold one.

“Dylan was excellent. Obviously he had a goal and an assist. But, for me, I thought it was more about his work-rate and how hard he worked.

“I thought him and Alfie (Adam Le Fondre) worked their socks off and they’re dangerous.”

Meanwhile, Luzern manager Mario Frick admits his side have a mountain to climb.

He said: “The second half started with a gift from our side when they scored the first goal and, of course, with the support of the fans it got difficult.

“But we were still in the game and we had our chances and the equaliser came pretty quickly.

“Then, it was 2-1 and again a gift from our side and it became a nightmare. It’s a difficult situation for the second leg now.

“Can we progress in the second leg? Not if we play like today. We have to get back to our real game to have a chance.

“It’s not impossible but it’s a very difficult situation.”

Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy is happy his side will take to the pitch at Tynecastle next week with their European hopes still alive following a 2-1 defeat by Rosenborg in Norway.

It was a tough first half for Hearts in the first leg of their Europa Conference League third round qualifier at the Lerkendal Stadion as Emil Frederiksen put the home side ahead in the 14th minute before Jayden Nelson made it 2-0 in added time.

The Jambos asserted themselves after the break and pulled a goal back in the 78th minute through skipper Lawrence Shankland on his 28th birthday to give the Edinburgh side better prospects of recovering the tie in the second leg next Thursday in Gorgie.

McAvoy told Hearts TV: “We are obviously disappointed to lose the game 2-1 but the tie is alive which is the least that we hoped that we could do.

“We made a few mistakes in the first half but that is about us encouraging players to be brave on the ball, we’ve done that so we accept that responsibility as a coaching team.

“We had a lot of possession in the first half but we’re probably a wee bit too safe, if I’m honest.

“We changed that a wee bit in a second half and you could see that we get more impetus, more forward, penetrating passes and I thought that the least we deserved was the goal which we are delighted with and obviously not losing again because their strength is in transition, they are very good at it.

“But it’s all to play for in front of a capacity crowd at Tynecastle so we believe we can go there and hopefully get the job done.”

Hibernian will take a 3-1 lead into the second-leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against Swiss side Luzern after a pulsating victory at Easter Road.

With a play-off against Aston Villa awaiting the winners, Hibs struck first moments after the interval with a wonderful strike from Joe Newell.

Ismajl Beka nodded Luzern back level in the 57th minute.

But debutant Dylan Vente headed home with 18 minutes remaining and Jordan Obita added a third in the 90th minute as Hibs took charge of the tie heading into next week’s second leg in Switzerland.

Despite Sunday’s 3-2 home league defeat to St Mirren, Hibs manager Lee Johnson opted to be ambitious with his team selection.

New signing Vente was plunged straight in after resolving work permit issues to partner veteran striker Adam Le Fondre in attack.

With wingers Martin Boyle and Elie Youan providing attacking intent on the flanks of a four-man midfield, the Easter Road side were set up to be bold going forward and it paid off in the end.

But they had to do a lot of defending in the opening 20 minutes as Luzern showed their class on the ball.

Home keeper David Marshall was called into action after just five minutes to prevent Hibs from going behind early.

Martin Frydek clipped a superb pass over the top of right-back Lewis Miller to find winger Teddy Okou but his shot across goal was palmed away by Marshall.

Hibs got a sniff of a chance in the 27th minute from a long Miller throw. Skipper Paul Hanlon won the first contact and the ball eventually fell for Will Fish, whose attempted volley was blocked.

Dylan Levitt scrambled back with a last-ditch touch to prevent Max Meyer from a clear shot on goal as Luzern threatened again.

Soon after it was Hibs’ turn as Newell found Le Fondre’s intelligent run down the right but his attempt to find Vente at the near post was cleared, before Boyle’s 25-yard drive was tipped over by Luzern goalkeeper Pascal Loretz.

It was Hibs who opened the scoring just 18 seconds after the interval.

Boyle’s tenacity blocked a clearance on the right and Le Fondre helped it on for Vente whose smart lay-off was drilled into the top corner by Newell.

The lead lasted just 11 minutes. Luzern earned themselves a second corner in quick succession and Meyer’s in-swinging delivery was headed in by Beka.

Hibs regained the lead when Le Fondre crossed for an unmarked Vente to nod in from six yards.

Both teams continued to go for the jugular and substitute Christian Doidge almost grabbed a third for Hibs but his near-post shot from a low Boyle cross clipped the crossbar on the its way over.

Two minutes later at the other end, Pius Dorn’s drive crashed back off the crossbar with Marshall well beaten.

With the home side starting to look for the full-time whistle, they found a third from nowhere.

Luzern put themselves into trouble with a cross-field pass that Obita seized on to race clear and slot home.

Birthday boy Lawrence Shankland gave Hearts some much-needed Euro encouragement with a crucial second-half goal in a 2-1 defeat by Rosenborg in Trondheim.

Emil Frederiksen put the home side ahead in the 14th minute of the Europa Conference League third qualifying round first leg at the Lerkendal Stadion before 20-year-old Canada international Jayden Nelson made it 2-0 in added time in the first half.

The Jambos had been well off the pace but they responded positively after the break and pulled a goal back in the 78th minute through their skipper on his 28th birthday to perhaps turn the tie in the Gorgie side’s favour ahead of the return game at Tynecastle next Thursday night.

Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy will certainly be pleased that his side fought back after a ropey first half.

He tweaked his line-up from Saturday’s 2-0 cinch Premiership win over St Johnstone, notably Beni Baningime starting for the first time in 17 months after recovering from a torn knee ligament in March, 2022 – but he had a wretched time and was replaced at half-time.

Rangers loanee and fellow midfielder Alex Lowry came in for his first start, with left-back Alex Cochrane reinstated.

Svein Maalen’s side, eighth in Norway’s Eliteserien after 18 games, had the first attempt on goal inside the opening two minutes when Carlo Holse stabbed a cross wide of the target before 16-year-old Sverre Nypan fired a long-distance effort over the bar.

However, the home side did deservedly forged ahead when Nypan turned Baningime inside the Hearts box and crossed for Frederiksen to knock into the net from a few yards out after getting in front of Cochrane.

It was midway through the first half before Hearts had a shot on goal but Alan Forrest’s low drive was comfortably saved by keeper Andre Hansen.

Moments later, Jambos keeper Zander Clark made a better save from the ever-dangerous Nelson, whose curling shot was heading for inside the far post.

Then, on the half-hour mark, Rosenborg’s Tobias Borkeeiet came close with a long-distance drive which shaved Clark’s left-hand post.

But in the second minute of added time, Nypan raced away from struggling Baningime who pulled up and with the Hearts defence in shreds, he simply slipped the ball to Nelson to beat Clark from close range.

Peter Haring took over from Baningime for the second half and the visitors looked more at ease, and in the 52nd minute Shankland missed the target with a header when he should have hit the target.

There was a penalty shout when Lowry was sent spinning by the Rosenborg keeper inside the box as he tried to reach a Cochrane pass but Romanian referee Andrei Chivulete was unmoved.

Rejuvenated Hearts got the goal they deserved with 12 minutes left when substitute Stephen Kingsley crossed from the left for Scotland striker Shankland to direct a header past Hansen.

The Edinburgh side went in search of a leveller which left Rosenborg looking a bit shaky but they held on for the win, although Hearts will leave Norway confident they can recover the tie in the second leg to set up a meeting with either Hajduk Split or PAOK.

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