Irish Premiership: Two red cards as Linfield beat Crusaders

Aaron Burns scored the first goal as Linfield inflicted Crusaders' first home defeat of the Premiership season
Aaron Burns scored the first goal as Linfield inflicted Crusaders' first home defeat of the Premiership season

Crusaders suffered their first defeat in 29 home league matches as Linfield won 2-1 at Seaview to reduce the gap at the top of the table to four points.

Aaron Burns and Andrew Waterworth gave the Blues a 2-0 interval advantage with Jordan Owens heading the Crues' reply.

Linfield had manager David Healy and skipper Jamie Mulgrew sent off as tempers flared in the second half.

Coleraine beat Carrick 2-0, Ards were 4-2 winners over Ballymena and Glentoran drew 2-2 with Dungannon.

Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew was sent off as scuffles broke out between Crusaders and Linfield players
Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew was sent off as scuffles broke out between Crusaders and Linfield players

Red cards controversy at Seaview

The big talking point at Seaview concerned the second-half dismissals of former Northern Ireland striker Healy and Linfield captain Mulgrew.

Manager Healy, standing on the sideline, put out his foot to touch the ball while it was still in play, halting a run by Crusaders striker Jordan Owens.

Players from both sides then got involved in scuffles which took a while to die down.

Referee Raymond Hetherington sent Healy from the dug-out and also showed a red card to Mulgrew while Crusaders keeper Sean O'Neill got a yellow.

Healy was clearly enraged, signalling he had been spat at by a spectator in the main stand at the Shore Road ground.

However, he will be delighted with the result which moves his second-placed side to within four points of the Premiership pacesetters.

Defeat would have meant a 10-point gap at the top but the two-horse title race now has a competitive edge.

New Ards boss Colin Nixon saw his side beat Ballymena 4-2
New Ards boss Colin Nixon saw his side beat Ballymena 4-2

Magic start for Nixon

Colin Nixon celebrated a 4-2 victory over Ballymena United in his first match as manager of Ards - Carl McComb, Kyle Cherry, Emmett Friars and Gary Liggett scoring for the County Down side.

Ballymena had led twice through an own goal by home keeper Aaron Hogg and Johnny McMurray.

Jamie McGonigle scored both goals in Coleraine's 2-0 home win over Carrick Rangers.

At the Oval, Andrew Mitchell got both goals as Dungannon came from 2-0 down to draw at Glentoran.

Curtis Allen and James Ferrin had given the Belfast side a 2-0 half-time lead.

Irish Premiership - Saturday 31 December (15:00 GMT)
Ards4-2Ballymena Utd
Coleraine 2-0Carrick Rangers
Crusaders1-2Linfield
Glentoran2-2Dungannon Swifts

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