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I'm proud of my battling Crues: Baxter

 

By Graham Luney

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter hailed a spirited showing from his side after a daunting Champions League test ended in a 9-0 aggregate defeat to Bulgarian side Ludogorets.

The Crues lost the first leg 7-0 but conceded only two goals at Seaview last night to avoid the same heavy defeat the club suffered in 1973 when they lost 12-0 on aggregate to Dinamo Bucharest in the European Cup - including an 11-0 hammering in Romania.

A Rodney Brown own goal and Jakub Swierczok strike rounded off the scoring and the Crues will now take on either Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia or Azerbaijan side Qarabag in the Europa League's second qualifying round next week. Qarabag lead 1-0 ahead of tonight's second leg.

"I'm very proud of the players," said Baxter. "I was hurt after the 7-0 defeat and wanted a response. The players were magnificent. Given their quality, it almost felt like a moral victory."

Marching on in the Europa League are Rangers, who beat FK Shkupi 2-0 on aggregate after a scoreless draw in Macedonia.

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