Raith Rovers 2-1 Aberdeen: Championship hosts knock Dons out of Scottish League Cup

Ethon Varian celebrates in front of the Raith Rovers fans after levelling
Ethon Varian celebrates in front of the Raith Rovers fans after levelling

Aberdeen crashed out of the last 16 of the Scottish League Cup as Raith Rovers fought back from behind to beat the Premiership side at Stark’s Park.

It was the Championship side’s first win over their visitors in 11 years, and the first at home since 1995.

Aberdeen had led through Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’s first goal for the club.

But Raith grew as a force and second-half strikes from Ethon Varian and Dario Zanatta caused a huge cup shock for the Kirkcaldy club.

It is John McGlynn’s side’s first win in five games.

The defeat will rattle Aberdeen, though, who now turn to Thursday’s crucial Europa League Conference play-off with Azerbaijan’s Qarabag. Late injuries to Jonny Hayes and Ryan Hedges will give manager Stephen Glass additional cause for concern.

Initially, it looked like it would be a stroll for Aberdeen. They dominated possession, passed the ball about with aplomb, and took an early lead with a quality finish.

Niall McGinn knocked a Jack Gurr cross into the path of Emmanuel-Thomas who cracked it into the far corner to open his Dons account.

But despite being on the on the back foot, Raith should twice have put the ball past visiting goalkeeper Joe Lewis.

Ross Matthews took advantage of indecision by Declan Gallagher to slip on to a free ball. Lewis saved his close-range effort and Blaise Riley-Snow failed to finish the follow-up.

Then Zanatta broke through a weak challenge from Ross McCrorie but inexplicably failed to hit the target from close range.

However, the hosts would dominate the second half, and within minutes of the break they were level when Varian made a great run to the front post to meet Reghan Tumilty’s free-kick and knock the ball in.

And the chances kept coming. Zanatta collected a throw-in, turned the defender and sent a teasing cross that Varian was inches away from heading in.

After Riley-Snow sent an effort over, Aidan Connolly burst through the middle and tested Lewis with a powerful effort.

Aberdeen had made seven changes from the midweek win over Icelandic side Breidablik, but with 20 minutes to go and with his side toiling, Glass called for the cavalry with Scott Brown, Hedges and Lewis Ferguson all entering the fray.

But within seconds they were behind. Riley-Snow’s shot was parried and as Gurr waited for the ball to come to him, Zanatta pounced and rifled Raith into the lead.

Aberdeen’s attempts to level were hampered by being reduced to 10 men when Hayes hobbled off with all five substitutions already made, and they finished it with nine as Hedges went down clutching his leg in time added on.

Home goalkeeper MacDonald had little to do as Raith eased past their top-flight opposition to reach the last eight.

Man of the match – Dario Zanatta

Dario Zanatta celebrates his goal
Dario Zanatta was terrific all afternoon, and scored a deserved winner for Raith Rovers

What did they say?

Raith Rovers manager John McGlynn: “It was a brilliant cup win and I am delighted the fans were here to see it.

“We put a bit of pressure on Aberdeen. I am delighted for the guys today. We showed composure. I’ll crack a bottle of champagne, possibly.”

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass: “We allowed Raith to create an atmosphere with the way they started the second half and the response from the group isn’t what it should have been, the quality wasn’t what it should have been, and we’ve paid a heavy, heavy price for it.

“It’s a massive disappointment we’re not in the next round. The group that were on the pitch in the first half showed they were good enough to win and control the game. The reaction to the adversity that came and the cup tie atmosphere that started happening wasn’t good enough.”

What’s next?

Aberdeen travel to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in the play-off round of the Europa Conference League on Thursday (17:00 BST), then are away to Hearts in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday (15:00). Raith Rovers face a Fife derby at home to Dunfermline in the Scottish Championship on Friday (19:45).


Raith Rovers

Formation 4-5-1

  • 1MacDonald
  • 2Tumilty
  • 6Benedictus
  • 5Berra
  • 3Dick
  • 7Connolly
  • 8Matthews
  • 23Riley-SnowSubstituted forArnottat 83′minutes
  • 15TaitBooked at 66mins
  • 11ZanattaSubstituted forFotheringhamat 89′minutes
  • 18VarianSubstituted forPoplatnikat 80′minutes


  • 9Keatings
  • 12Lang
  • 14McKay
  • 17Thomson
  • 21Fotheringham
  • 25Arnott
  • 26Mitchell
  • 29Young
  • 99Poplatnik


Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 1Lewis
  • 21GurrBooked at 47mins
  • 2McCrorie
  • 5Gallagher
  • 17HayesSubstituted forat 90+1′minutes
  • 15McGeouchSubstituted forBrownat 70′minutes
  • 18McLennanSubstituted forRamsayat 75′minutes
  • 20JenksSubstituted forFergusonat 70′minutes
  • 16Ojo
  • 10McGinnSubstituted forRamírezat 60′minutes
  • 14Emmanuel-ThomasSubstituted forHedgesat 70′minutesSubstituted forat 90+5′minutes


  • 3MacKenzie
  • 4Considine
  • 8Brown
  • 9Ramírez
  • 11Hedges
  • 19Ferguson
  • 22Ramsay
  • 24Campbell
  • 25Woods

Steven McLean


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