Europa League qualifier: Crusaders 3-1 FK Liepaja
Crusaders will take a 3-1 lead into the second leg of their Europa League first round qualifier against FK Liepaja.
Philip Lowry slammed home from close range after 27 minutes and then Michael Carvill fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the area soon after.
Jordan Owens added the third but Arturs Karasausks rifled home a magnificent drive which went in off the crossbar.
Home goalkeeper Brian Jensen, making his debut, made a fine save to deny Marks Kurtiss late in the game.
Sean Ward also made his first competitive appearance for the Irish League side as part of the starting team, with Jamie Glackin making his bow as a second-half substitute.
Crusaders skipper Colin Coates was returning to action after missing the latter end of last season through injury.
The hosts bossed the early stages with Paul Heatley hooking over the bar before Lowry took advantage of Liepaja's failure to clear the danger.
Carvill doubled the lead and then provided the corner which was headed down by Coates into the path of Owens, who provided the finish.
Karasausks' spectacular strike on the hour breathed new life into the Latvian side as they take an away goal into next Thursday's second leg.
Kurtiss grazed the bar with a header and was denied by good goalkeeping from Jensen.
The winners of the tie will take on Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Bulgaria or Suduva of Lithuania in the second qualifying round.
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter: "I was thrilled with our performance but disappointed slightly with the result given that we conceded the goal.
"Our play was sensational for an hour given that we have only been back for a week but their fitness and class showed in the last 30 minutes. We were out on our feet by the end.
"All the players worked incredibly hard but we face a mammoth task against a good side. They will be buoyed by that late goal for the second leg."
- 10CarvillSubstituted forBeverlandat 86'minutes
- 7LowrySubstituted forGlackinat 73'minutes
- 19SnoddyBooked at 90mins
- 22HeatleySubstituted forWhyteat 83'minutes
- 13JurkovskisBooked at 43mins
- 19AfanasjevsSubstituted forKurtissat 60'minutes
- 86TomicSubstituted forKigursat 72'minutes
- 20TorresBooked at 90mins
- 23GrebisBooked at 31mins
- Anders Poulsen