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Four-goal defeat means we're playing for pride: Baxter

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One that got away: Crusaders’ Jordan Owens sees his shot saved by goalkeeper Davor Blazevic

One that got away: Crusaders’ Jordan Owens sees his shot saved by goalkeeper Davor Blazevic

One that got away: Crusaders’ Jordan Owens sees his shot saved by goalkeeper Davor Blazevic

Stephen Baxter admitted that Crusaders' history-making European adventure is over after their 4-0 Europa League defeat at the hands of Swedish side Brommapojkarna.

Their first round victory over Ekranas of Lithuania was the Crues' first ever in Europe, but a combination of a second half penalty from the Swedes and missed chances from his own players means that second round tie is now beyond the Seaview side.

Crusaders had started well, but they were rocked when Dardan Rexhepi opened the scoring after nine minutes and the lead was then doubled by Mauricio Albornoz on 27 minutes.

Two goals inside three minutes, just after the hour mark, killed Crusaders chances of being able to turn the tie around next Thursday night.

Jacob Une Larsson struck the third on 62 minutes, before Niklas Barkroth netted from a penalty.

"We got a lot out of the game, but we were beaten by a team that was better than us, who passed the ball better than us, who were sharper to the ball than us and the fact that they are in mid-season told," said Baxter.

"We had four good chance and we should have scored at least one of them, although they had other chances to score too.

"The penalty that was awarded to them was never a penalty really – our players strongly disputed it – so it could maybe have been 3-1 and we would still be in with a chance.

"At 4-0 we are playing for pride next week and we will go out and try to win the game, but whatever happens we can be proud because we have achieved a lot in the last few weeks.

"It's great for the club to have got past the first round – and there is a bit of money to be made from that – while these games are much more beneficial in terms of preparation for our season than the usual friendlies."

Crues striker Jordan Owens had been denied by goalkeeper Davor Blazevic in the early stages before Rexhepi collected Gabriel Petrovic's pass to open the scoring.

Chris Morrow then brought a save from Blazevic and the Crues forced a couple of corners before Owens again had a shot saved.

Albornoz's strike just before the half hour came as a blow, coming at a time when the Crues were threatening an equaliser, but Brommapojkarna then finished the half the stronger and could have been further in front by the break, with Sean O'Neill saving from Christian Kouakou.

The Swedes threatened at the start of the second half too and after O'Neill kept out efforts from substitutes Jesper Karlstrom and Gustav Sandberg Magnusson, Larsson finished from their second corner in quick succession.

Any hopes that Crusaders might have had of clawing back the deficit at Seaview were killed off when Brommapojkarna hit their fourth of the night on 65 minutes.

Paul Heatley was adjudged to have fouled Barkroth inside the box – with the Cypriot referee waving away the protests – and the striker got up to score the penalty himself.

Brommapojkarna: Blazevic, Segerstrom, Jonsson, Bjorkström, J. Larsson, Albornoz, Petrovic, Ngouali, Rexhepi, Kouakou, Barkroth. Subs: Vazgec, Starfelt, Falkeborn, Karlstrom, Asbrink, Sandberg Magnusson.

CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Morrow, Caddell, Clarke, O'Carroll, Owens, Heatley. Subs: McCrea, Leeman, Cockcroft, Snoddy, Whyte, Adamson, Dempster.

Referee: Christos Nicolaides (Cyprus).

Belfast Telegraph