Irish Premiership: Crusaders score six in win over Ballymena

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Irish Premiership : Crusaders 6-0 Ballymena United

Champions Crusaders romped to a thumping 6-0 win at home to Ballymena United on the opening day of the 2016-17 Irish Premiership season.

Jordan Owens netted a hat-trick, Paul Heatley scored two and Gavin Whyte was also on target for the Crues who are going for three titles in a row.

Last year's runners-up Linfield won 2-1 at Ballinamallard thanks to a brilliant long-range striker by Kirk Millar.

Newly-promoted Ards hit back twice to draw 2-2 against Cliftonville.

Relive all the action
How the Premiership's opening day unfolded

All the goals came in the second half at Mourneview Park as Glenavon saw off Carrick Rangers 4-0 while Ciaran Caldwell was the scorer in Glentoran's 1-0 home win over Dungannon Swifts.

Former Rangers striker Nacho Novo made his debut for the Glens as a second-half substitute.

At Seaview, Stephen Baxter's Crusaders sent out an emphatic message to those teams aiming to dethrone the back-to-back champions.

They were 4-0 up at half-time through Heatley, Owens (2) and Whyte.

Kirk Millar is congratulated by Linfield team-mates Chris Casement and Stephen Lowry
Kirk Millar is congratulated by Linfield team-mates Chris Casement and Stephen Lowry

Ballymena steadied the ship for a spell but Heatley netted again and Owens completed his hat-trick with a late penalty.

Spectacular goal from Millar

It might have been the first day of the campaign, but Linfield's Kirk Millar has already posted a contender for goal of the season.

With Ballinamallard keeper James McGrath out of position, Millar launched a first-time lob from just inside the United half which landed in the far corner of the net.

That gave David Healy's men the 2-1 win at Ferney Park.

Earlier Stephen Lowry had headed them into the lead before Ryan McConnell volleyed Ballinamallard's equaliser.

What they said

Crusaders midfielder Gavin Whyte: "The boys played really well and that is what we needed because we had not won our opening league game for six years.

"Everybody did their job and we played superbly. The manager has just said the front three were brilliant and of course that helps."

Glentoran manager Alan Kernaghan: "The performance and result was pleasing, it was just the scoreline which let us down a little bit.

"We had lots of crosses and shots, but just lacked the good decision at the right time which could have given us more goals, but that is just me being picky.

"Nacho Novo did well. He showed glimpses but there is more to come from him."

Ards manager Niall Currie: "I thought we stuck in there. The effort and enthusiasm were super.

"We created chances against a top-class Cliftonville side.

"I've just told the lads that if they can apply themselves like that every week we will do OK."

Kirk Millar of Linfield: "I'm obviously pleased to get off the mark. I was just inside their half and spotted the keeper off his line.

"The manager has strengthened the squad, bringing in some experienced players and I think we are looking well."

Rhys Marshall on Glenavon's 4-0 win: "That is just what we wanted, with a clean sheet as well.

"The manager said at half-time we were a bit flat and we came out and upped the tempo.

"We are glad with 4-0 but it is just one game."

Irish Premiership 6 August
Ards2-2Cliftonville
Ballinamallard United1-2Linfield
ColerainePostponedPortadown
Crusaders6-0Ballymena United
Glenavon4-0Carrick Rangers
Glentoran1-0Dungannon Swifts
League Cup second round draw
Matches to be played on 30 August
Ballinamallard UnitedvDundela
Armagh CityvDergview
NewingtonvBallymena United
CrusadersvLoughgall
ArdsvNewry City
ColerainevLimavady United
Ballyclare Comrades vCarrick Rangers
Warrenpoint TownvBanbridge Town
Annagh UnitedvGlentoran
InstitutevH & W Welders
KnockbredavLurgan Celtic
Dungannon Swifts vSport & Leisure
LinfieldvLarne
GlenavonvTobermore United
CliftonvillevLisburn Distillery

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