Europa League: Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter basks in 'proudest' moment

Billy Joe Burns
Billy Joe Burns was one of a number of players to produce an outstanding defensive performance

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter says holding Wolves to a 2-0 win at Molineux is the proudest moment he has had as a manager.

The Crues produced an inspired defensive display to frustrate the Premier League side for the majority of their Europa League second qualifying round first leg on Thursday.

"In 20 years at Crusaders, I don't think I have ever been as proud of a performance as I am tonight," he said.

"They were simply unbelievable."

Before the match, Baxter said that a loss of three goals or fewer would be deemed a success for Crusaders.

Indeed for most of the game it appeared that the sides would only be separated by Diogo Jota's wonderful 37th-minute strike.

Ruben Vinagre pounced on a late error by keeper Sean O'Neill, who had made a string of excellent saves throughout the match, to double Wolves' lead just before the final whistle.

However, even the late goal did little to take away from what was an outstanding display from the Irish Cup champions.

"To be in a stadium with that noise and a full house of 29,000, we worked out a game plan to stop them playing and we did it to an absolute tee tonight," said Baxter.

Crusaders Wolves
Crusaders frustrated Wolves for large parts of their encounter on Thursday

"We could have very easily been cut to shreds tonight but we were brilliant and I am very proud of the team.

"I talked all week about not being tourists in their stadium, I wanted them to stand as equals, and realise that they were human beings just like us."

The Crues will welcome Wolves to Seaview for the second leg on Thursday 1 August.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side may well have hoped to rest some players for that tie, but with just a two-goal lead will likely call on their full-strength team once again.

"The way he (Nuno) spoke to me was just fantastic, what they have accomplished in the last two years has been incredible," Baxter added.

"He said 'bravo, your team were simply superb. It was a tactical masterclass' and that says a lot from a Premier League manager.

"It's not often you come out feeling elated about a defeat but when you come into this cauldron with a noise level of 29,000 people, that is just awesome."

Top Stories