FC Copenhagen the best I've played against says Baxter as Crusaders are humbled
Crusaders 0-3 FC Copenhagen
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter believes FC Copenhagen are the best European side he has seen on these shores.
The Danish champions didn't hold back against the Hatchetmen in the first leg Champions League Qualifier, recording a 3-0 win at Seaview, with a classy display that demonstrated the massive chasm in class between the clubs.
Baxter said; "In all my European experience, that is the best team I've come up against.
"Their passing, their movement, their first touch were all the best I have seen.
"They moved it faster than any team I've seen before.
"I'm not at all despondent because you need to recognise the difference between the two clubs.
"Our yearly budget is around £250k, theirs is in the tens of millions, if not more.
"They play in a massive stadium and in massive games.
"We're not at all downbeat about the experience.
"You work all season long to experience nights like this.
"It's fantastic that we get the opportunity to play teams of this standard.
"Our players will have gained so much from the experience."
Baxter was right not to be despondent as his players, though outclassed, played with real determination.
Although classy Copenhagen were well worth their win, the Crues created a number of good chances.
While they didn't have enough to challenge the Danes, there is no sign their domestic dominance will dry up, with second-half substitute David Cushley impressing on his competitive debut.
It took just six minutes for Copenhagen to grab the lead.
Domestically, Crusaders are rarely vulnerable from set-pieces, but their dangerous Danish visitors had power and height in abundance.
Swedish international Ludwig Augustinsson's accurate corner-kick picked out Paraguayan forward Federico Santander, who sent a bullet header into the bottom corner.
It was then 2-0 in the 35th minute.
Peter Ankersen sped down the right-flank, flighting the ball towards the unmarked Andreas Cornelius.
Goalkeeper Sean O'Neill got a hand to the Danish international's powerful header, but he couldn't stop the ball from crossing the line.
Copenhagen continued their dominance in the second half, adding a third in the 53rd minute.
Rasmus Falk strolled through the Crusaders defence before slotting the ball past O'Neill from inside the penalty area.
But Crusaders had chances of their own.
In the first-half Declan Caddell missed two good opportunities, while in the second period the home side weren't afraid to test Copenhagen goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
Paul Heatley tested him in the 60th minute, while substitute David Cushley tried his luck from 40 yards in the 67th minute, but Olsen scrambled back to push the ball over the ball.
In the end, Copenhagen just had too much for the Irish League champions.
But Crusaders can head to Denmark for Tuesday night's second leg clash in the knowledge that they have plenty to look forward to this season on the domestic front.