Belfast Telegraph

In pictures: Baxter hails Crusaders' 'best ever' display as Wolves pushed all the way in Europa League first leg at Molineux

Wolves 2-0 Crusaders

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Ruben Neves and Crusaders' Paul Heatley battle for the ball during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Ruben Neves and Crusaders' Paul Heatley battle for the ball during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Crusaders fans during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders Sean ONeill and Philip Lowry Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders Sean ONeill Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Jonny and Crusaders' Ross Clarke battle for the ball during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Crusaders' fans during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Crusaders' manager Stephen Baxter consoles goalkeeper Sean O'Neill after the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Ruben Neves and Crusaders' Paul Heatley.
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Adama Traore in action with Crusaders Philip Lowry Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Ruben Neves in action with Crusaders Ross Clarke Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Jonny Otto in action with Crusaders Billy Joe Burns Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Adama Traore in action with Crusaders Jarlaith ORourke Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Morgan Gibbs-White in action with Crusaders Rory Hale Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders Stephen Baxter Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Adama Traore in action with Crusaders Jarlaith ORourke Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Adama Traore in action with Crusaders Jarlaith ORourke Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Adama Traore in action with Crusaders Paul Heatley Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Adama Traore in action with Crusaders Jarlaith ORourke Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Morgan Gibbs-White in action with Crusaders Jordan Forsythe Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Diogo Jota in action with Crusaders Billy Joe Burns Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Crusaders Rory Hale has a shot on target Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Morgan Gibbs-White in action with Crusaders Philip Lowry Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
25 thJuly 2019 Europa league match between Wolves and Crusaders at Molineux. Wolves Morgan Gibbs-White in action with Crusaders Philip Lowry Mandatory Credit / Stephen Hamilton
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Jonny high five's fans as he is substituted during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Adama Traore and Crusaders' Jarlaith O'Rourke battle for the ball during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Adama Traore and Crusaders' Jarlaith O'Rourke (left) battle for the ball during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Jonny and Willy Boly challenge Crusaders' Ross Clarke during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Crusaders' manager Stephen Baxter during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Crusaders players line up before the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Diogo Jota and Crusaders' Billy Joe Burns battle for the ball during the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wolverhampton Wanderers line up before the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Scarves for sales before the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Scarves for sales before the Europa League Qualifying match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 25, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Ruben Vinagre of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates scoring the Wolves second goal during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Ruben Vinagre of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates scoring the Wolves second goal during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Ruben Vinagre of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates scoring the Wolves second goal during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Jonny of Wolverhampton Wanderers beats Paul Heatley to the ball during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Morgan Gibbs-White of Wolverhampton Wanderers heads the ball to goal despite the challenge from Chris Hegarty during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Joao Moutinho of Wolverhampton Wanderers plays the ball past Rory Hale during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Jonny of Wolverhampton Wanderers is tackled by Billy Burns during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Jonny of Wolverhampton Wanderers is tackled by Rory Hale during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round 1st Leg match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crusaders at Molineux on July 25, 2019 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter has hailed his side's performance at Molineux as the best he has seen as a player or a manager.

The Crues went down 2-0 to Premier League giants Wolves in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg, succeeding in their goal of keeping the tie alive ahead of next Thursday's second leg at Seaview.

It was almost even better as the hosts ended up winning by two only when Ruben Vinagre added a late injury-time second to Diago Jota's first half opener.

Conceding so late on will be hard to take for a Crues side who grafted throughout the game in front a capacity crowd of almost 30,000, rightly earning much praise from their hosts.

Wolves, expectedly, enjoyed the vast majority of possession and had 29 efforts on goal while the Crues' only shot was an early Rory Hale effort. It was a spirited effort from Baxter's men, considering the huge gap between the clubs, with Crusaders' annual wage budget of around £500k dwarfed by Wolves' £70m figure.

Crusaders, in front of their 300 travelling fans, held out at 0-0 for 36 minutes but the deadlock was broken when Jota smashed a Adama Traore cross past a helpless Sean O'Neill on the half-volley.

The Crues' keeper went on to deliver a top quality display only for it to suffer a sour ending as he dropped a Joao Moutinho cross to the feet on Vinagre, who added a last gasp second.

"We thought we'd got out of here with a 1-0. It wasn't to be," Crues boss Baxter told Premier Sports.

"Sean O'Neill was one of our best players, he made some wonderful saves. He's a wee bit gutted.

"We gave a masterclass in defending. We're a small part-time football club from Northern Ireland we held a great shape.

"It might be a little bit different (at Seaview) with a 3,000 stadium and plastic pitch.

"It was difficult to get any possession tonight. We could have come here and lost by 10 goals. But this is a proud moment in our history.

"I've been here 20 years as a player and manager and that's the best performance I've ever seen from us."

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo saluted his side's opponents, recognising their defensive effort.

"Crusaders fought for every ball to prevent goals," he told Premier Sports. "It will be tough [(n the second leg). We will have to be focussed in Belfast.

"(The second goal) makes a difference. To control the levels of anxiety during the game is tough. When a team are organised and fight for their lives, it's difficult."

Wolves visit Seaview on Thursday, August 1, kick-off 8pm.

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