Despite losing all three games |in Group Seven of the UEFA Women's Champions League, Crusaders Newtownabbey Strikers' participation in the WCL was for them a resounding success on and off the field of play.
The week long mini-qualifying group organised by Strikers' local organising committee was given numerous plaudits by players and partners alike.
On the field of play, the |outcome of the group was never in doubt given the experience within FCR 2001 Duisburg's squad. Under-20 World Cup and Golden Boot winner Alexandra Popp's overhead strike on match day one against SK Slovan Bratislava was a sign of things to come.
Crusaders' performance was laudable considering their ranking in the group. By his own admission, coach Billy Wylie felt that he and his players did not perform to their own standards on match day one against Glasgow City.
Saturday, August 9, was always going to be the game to watch for the home crowd and the match-up against the Germans surpassed all expectations for everyone involved.
Attracting the largest crowd of the tournament (300 plus), |who were a much needed 12th player for the home |team, Strikers claimed the moral victory of the tournament by becoming the only team in the group to breach the German |defence.
Julie Nelson's conversion of a goalmouth scramble just after half time injected life into the team and, as befits the Crusaders logo, she and her teammates gave everything on the pitch, however they eventually lost 6-1.
Having two days to recover after this David and Goliath battle was simply too much for them and on match day three they lost out 1-0 to SK Slovan Bratislava despite hitting the post in the final minutes.
Closer to home, their football season continues with the |semi-final of the Coca-Cola Women’s Cup and the Premier Cup final yet to come. Off the field of play and thanks to the support of their tournament sponsors and partners, Chambers Coaches and North Belfast Play Forum, the club has demonstrated an exceptional organisational capacity.