Belfast giants Crusaders faced 7th place Premier league Wolverhampton Wanderers last night in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg at Molineaux.
Crusaders knew it would be nigh on impossible to beat the Premier League side at home and were hoping for at best, a three goal deficit going into the second leg, but Wolves did not expect such an impressive defensive display from the part time Belfast side.
Wolves enjoyed most the possession with Diogo Jota breaking the deadlock in the 37th minute for the hosts by capitalising on a rare lapse in concentration from Crus keeper Sean O’Neill. The 31 year old keeper, who has been with Crusaders for eight years made a string of fantastic saves throughout the game, couldn’t help but be disappointed when Wolves scored their 2nd goal of the evening in the dying seconds of added time. O’Neill he dropped a Joao Moutinho cross to the feet on Vinagre who slotted the ball into net.
Stephen Baxter praised his squad after a fantastic performance against Premier League side Wolves in Birmingham last night saying “It’s the best performance they’ve given us – I played here for six years and have managed for 14. It’s the best performance for almost 20 years,”
“We thought we’d got out of here with a 1-0. It wasn’t to be,” Crues boss Baxter told Premier Sports.
“Sean O’Neill was one of our best players, he made some wonderful saves. He’s a wee bit gutted.
“We gave a masterclass in defending. We’re a small part-time football club from Northern Ireland we held a great shape”
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was quick to praise the visitors saying “”Crusaders fought for every ball to prevent goals,” he told Premier Sports. “It will be tough [(n the second leg). We will have to be focused in Belfast.
“(The second goal) makes a difference. To control the levels of anxiety during the game is tough. When a team are organised and fight for their lives, it’s difficult.”
Crusaders host Wolves next week at Seaview next Thursday 1st of August at 8pm
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