Crusaders beaten 5-1 by Olimpija Ljubljana in Europa League first leg
Crusaders lost 5-1 to Olimpija Ljubljana in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg in Slovenia.
Declan Caddell missed a great Crusaders chance after Kingsley Boateng had put the home side ahead on 30 minutes.
Matic Crnic curled in Ljubljana's second on 56 minutes before Boateng netted his second on 68.
Crusaders responded with Jordan Forsythe's deflected effort but Crnic and Haris Kadric completed the scoring.
After their 7-0 away hammering by Bulgarian club Ludogrets on the way to a 9-0 aggregate defeat in the Champions League first qualifying round, this was a more competitive Crusaders performance as they frustrated the Slovenians for long periods.
But Ljubljana responded to Forsythe's 73rd-minute goal with two late strikes to almost certainly put the tie out of reach before next Thursday's second leg as Crnic exploited a lapse of concentration to fire in after a quickly taken free-kick and Kadric then netted in injury-time.
Crues restrict Slovenians to 1-0 half-time lead
With inspirational skipper Colin Coates back in the centre of the Crues defence after missing both games against Ludogorets, the visitors were well organised in the opening half.
Ljubljana's early passing fluency soon became ragged as they resorted to lumping in long balls into the Crusaders defence which were meat and drink to Coates and his central defensive partner Howard Beverland.
At the other end, a Crues break set up a chance for Michael Carvill in the 20th minute but his left-foot shot from the edge of the box was a foot over the crossbar.
Ljubljana needed Boateng's brilliant finish to the roof of the net to take the lead on 30 minutes but the Crues should have got on terms six minutes later as Caddell fired straight at keeper Aljaz Ivacic after a defensive mistake had put him in the clear.
Ljubljana's late goals put them in control
The Crues continued to have their moments after the resumption with David Cushley almost catching out Ivacic with an audacious lob from his own half after picking up the ball on the edge of his own penalty area.
But once again, Ljubljana were able to conjure a superb finish for their second goal as Crnic curled in a glorious strike from outside the box after the Crusaders defence had appeared to halt an attack.
Asmir Suljic's defence-splitting pass put Boateng in the clear to slot his second goal of the night only for Forsythe to reply five minutes later with his deflected effort.
A 3-1 defeat would have kept Crues hopes alive but as their concentration wavered, Crnic hammered in his second following a quickly-take free kick before Kadric poked in Ljubljana's fifth goal in injury-time after Sean O'Neill had been unable to hold substitute Stefan Savic's low shot.
The Slovenians are now in a strong position to set up a third qualifying round tie with the losers of the Champions League tie between BATE Borisov or HJK Helsinki.
- 95AvramovskiSubstituted forSavicat 79'minutes
- 21BoatengSubstituted forKadricat 86'minutes
- 90TomicBooked at 62minsSubstituted forSuljicat 64'minutes
- 7LowrySubstituted forClarkeat 73'minutes
- 6CoatesBooked at 77mins
- 11CushleySubstituted forHeatleyat 59'minutes
- 19SnoddyBooked at 76mins
- 12CaddellSubstituted forBrownat 82'minutes
- 14ForsytheBooked at 71mins
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