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Raith Rovers 2-1 Aberdeen: Dario Zanatta dazzles as John McGlynn’s heroes down Dons

Zanatta celebrates his winner against Aberdeen in the previous round
Zanatta celebrates his winner against Aberdeen in the previous round

Aberdeen have been enjoying the American dream this season.

Their striker from the States; an attack-minded boss fresh from the coaching staff of Atlanta United; an ambitious owner who made his fortune across the pond.

But they were stunned by some Canadian class after Dario Zanatta inspired Raith Rovers to a stunning Premier Sports Cup triumph.

The lad from Vancouver was irrepressible against the Dons, notching the winning goal and giving stand-in full-back Jack Gurr a torrid time on the flank.

Rovers’ victory was achieved the hard way, too.

Celebrations: Raith

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas gave Aberdeen an early lead — the hosts could have wilted against their in-form opponents — but on-loan Stoke City striker Ethon Varian levelled after the break.

From that point, the momentum was with the hosts and, to the backdrop of a mighty din from the home fans, battled to a famous win — replicating the Scottish Cup heroes of 2010.

JET-fuelled

John McGlynn made two changes to the Rovers side narrowly defeated by Inverness in their last outing, with Varian and Blaise-Riley Snow replacing Matej Poplatnik and Tom Lang.

Varian, right, came into the side

Aberdeen, playing their seventh match in 24 days, benched the likes of Calvin Ramsay, Christian Ramirez, Scott Brown, Ryan Hedges and Lewis Ferguson.

Zanatta was a positive presence in the opening exchanges — showing a willingness to run at the Dons backline — while Riley-Snow saw a close-range effort blocked.

But the rejigged Reds were ahead with just 12 minutes on the clock.

Niall McGinn produced a deft knock-down to direct a Jack Gurr delivery into the path of Emmanuel-Thomas, who unleashed an unstoppable right-footed drive beyond Jamie MacDonald.

Dunfermline boss Peter Grant was among those in attendance at Stark’s Park ahead of Friday night’s televised Fife derby in Kirkcaldy.

And the Pars gaffer saw Rovers come close to levelling on the cusp of half-time, with the bright Zanatta showing guile and physicality to spin Ross McCrorie in the box before lashing a drive into the side-netting.

Resurgent Rovers

Raith converted those signs of promise to a leveller after the break.

Another marauding Zanatta run was crudely halted by Gurr and the resulting free-kick was brilliantly fizzed across the face of goal by Reghan Tumilty, allowing Varian to volley home his first goal in senior football.

Belief soaring and Stark’s Park jumping, the hosts went on the hunt for a winner. A ferocious Aidan Connolly effort from 25 yards was parried away by Joe Lewis.

That shoot-on-sight philosophy paid dividends when Rovers claimed a stunning lead after 70 minutes.

Riley-Snow burst through a powder-puff midfield line and tried his luck from distance. Lewis could only palm the ball into the path of Zanatta, who reacted faster that Gurr to smash home the follow-up.

Raith held firm after Aberdeen threw on the lavish talents of Ramsey, Brown, Hedges and Ramirez. Christophe Berra and Kyle Benedictus, in particular, were imperious amid a swathe of heroic displays as Raith secured a spot in the last eight.

John McGlynn reaction as Raith Rovers stun Aberdeen: We’re in the quarters for the first time since 1994 – now we just need to win it again!

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