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Crues land early blow but Wolves turn on the power

Crusaders 1 Wolves 4


Hunted down: Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens celebrate as Crusaders strike first

Hunted down: Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens celebrate as Crusaders strike first

Stephen Hamilton /Inpho

Raul Jimenez (inset) finds the net at Seaview

Raul Jimenez (inset) finds the net at Seaview

Stephen Hamilton /Inpho

Paul Heatley with Ryan Bennett

Paul Heatley with Ryan Bennett

Stephen Hamilton /Inpho

Hunted down: Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens celebrate as Crusaders strike first

Crusaders' European adventure was ended as the millionaire stars of Wolves turned on the style at Seaview last night.

Raul Jimenez scored twice as the Premiership side eased through to the next round of qualifying.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, it was always going to be a massive ask for Stephen Baxter's side to turn this around and they again performed admirably against classy opposition, but ultimately fell short.

The gulf in class told, with three first half goals - two of them from Raul Jimenez - ending the tie as a contest.

It is Wolves who progress to the third qualifying round, and a real chance of making the Europa League proper, yet Crusaders will take so many memories from these two games, not least the opening goal last night, cheekily claimed by Paul Heatley but actually accredited as an own goal to defender Ryan Bennett.

For a minute - literally - fans dared to dream, before Wolves and Jimenez stamped their class all over this match.

The £30m forward was only a sub in the first leg after returning late from national duty with Mexico, but this time Nuno Espirito Santo had him in from the start, and he took the game away from Crusaders with a double.

Yet it wasn't quite as comfortable as the final score would suggest, with Bennett's own-goal allowing home fans to dream.

They had already gone close inside 90 seconds, when Jordan Forsythe's cross found Owens, whose header was cleared off the line by Conor Coady.

And the noise levels inside a packed-out Seaview were cranked up after that shock 14th minute opener.

Another cross from Forsythe was floated in, forcing the mistake from Bennett, with the defender, trying to stop Paul Heatley converting the cross, heading the ball past his own 'keeper.

Crusaders, against all the odds, were back in it, with the aggregate score back to 2-1, however it merely provoked Wolves, who hit back quickly.

Just a minute after going behind, a cross from Jonny found its way to Jimenez, who finished with all the quality and accuracy of an international striker, turning and crashing the ball into the net.

Wolves' away goal meant the Crues now needed to score four, and it was a hopeless task, particularly with players such as Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho moving the ball confidently through midfield.

They did their best to remind the Premiership side they were still in a game as Billy-Joe Burns went in strongly on Jimenez, leaving the forward on the ground in some discomfort.

Yet Wolves stepped it up as the half progressed, Jimenez proving a handful up front, dragging a shot narrowly wide, and Diogo Jota having a penalty appeal turned down.

Their enterprising play was rewarded seven minutes before the break when Bennett redeemed his earlier blunder with a goal.

Moutinho curled in a corner and Bennett was left unmarked to head in for 2-1.

Jimenez then stretched the lead on the stroke of half-time with Wolves' third, the striker and Jota swapping passes with ease and, when the ball broke to Jimenez, he curled home.

The aggregate score was 5-1, and the tie done, but the Crues were not about to lie down, and 10 minutes into the second half Burns left Jota on the ground with another robust challenge.

The fallout saw both players booked. Moutinho's free-kick was fired towards the near post, but scrambled clear by goalkeeper Sean O'Neill.

The visitors still had time to add a fourth in the 77th minute, Forsythe, trying to keep the ball away from his man, inadvertently looping a header into his own net from Moutinho's cross.

• Ronan Hale has left Crusaders to join League of Ireland Premier Division side St Patrick's Athletic.

Belfast Telegraph