Dundee 2 Aberdeen 1
Another clever set-piece – one designed to catch the Aberdeen defence off-guard – and a customary strike from David Clarkson gave Dundee the victory at Dens Park in a pulsating Scottish Cup tie. It was, however, the man-of-the-match performance of Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes that caught the eye.
Aberdeen seemed to confuse their opponents from the off. Hayes lined up at kick-off as if he was going to operate on the left but, as soon as the game started, drifted into one of the holding midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1. The Dons immediately created a chance from kick-off and were inches away from taking the lead. This is an unfamiliar role for the former Inverness star but he slotted in seamlessly, dropping deep to collect the ball from the Aberdeen defenders before launching attacks.
But this was by no means the full extent of Hayes’s contribution. In a tactic reminiscent of Guardolia’s Bayern Munich full backs arcing into the centre of the pitch to become holding midfielders when their side have possession, Hayes performed what was almost the inverse: bursting up towards the left wing when Niall McGinn drifted into central areas.
The Aberdeen equaliser came when Hayes collected the ball in the middle of the park and drove at the Dundee defence before teeing up McGinn and was also found covering at left-back when required. He even popped up on the right wing in the second half to go on a mazy run down the touchline and again set up a teammate, this time Adam Rooney.
With Aberdeen again chasing an equaliser, now into injury-time, Hayes found McGinn once more, this time with a cross-field pass but the Northern Irish international’s fierce strike forced an incredible save from Scott Bain in the Dundee goal.
Hayes was unfortunate to find himself on the losing team and will no doubt be happy with his individual performance. It will be interesting to see if his manager continues to deploy him as such in the continued absence of Willo Flood and Barry Robson.