Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders suffer Europa League heartbreak

By Graham Luney

Crusaders' hopes of progressing to the second qualifying round of the Europa League were cruelly shattered in Latvia as FK Liepaja struck a 94th minute winner to go through on away goals.

A 3-1 first leg victory had left the Crues optimistic of finishing the job at the Duagava Stadium but their dream was crushed right at the death as Arturs Karasausks pounced to seal a 2-0 win.

Giorgi Eristavi's 33rd minute penalty, after Howard Beverland had brought down Karasausks, rattled the north-Belfast side but they had soaked up intense pressure until the 25-year-old Latvia international tore up the script.

Liepaja will now take on Lithuanian side FK Suduva, who overcame FC Shakhtyor 2-1 on aggregate, while boss Stephen Baxter and his men will reflect on a heartbreaking end to their Europa League adventure.

There was brave resistance from the Crues but Liepaja were a more dangerous attacking side in the second leg and their luck changed with only seconds remaining.

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