Europa League: Crusaders close in on Wolves tie after Seaview success but Ballymena hammered in Sweden
Crusaders are on course to face Wolves in the next round of the Europa League after a win at Seaview while Ballymena were on the end of a hammering in Sweden.
The Crues enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Faroese side B36 Torshavn at Seaview and, if anything, the scoreline should have been more comfortable.
The lead Malmo enjoy when they head to the Showgrounds next week is certainly that, after a 7-0 win over Ballymena United in Sweden.
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Here's all you need to know about tonight's early games:
Crusaders 2-0 B36 Torshavn
Crusaders have one foot in a Europa League second qualifying round tie against Wolves after a 2-0 win over B36 Torshavn at Seaview.
It was the least they deserved for a rampant first half display. While they slackened off in the second half, it was a dominant performance that should provide ultimate confidence in completing the job in the Faroe Islands next Thursday.
Debutant centre-half Chris Hegarty popped up with a relieving opener after half an hour and midfielder Philip Lowry added the second to give Crues a more convincing advantage midway through the tie.
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The Crues hemmed their visitors in from the first whistle and should have been ahead on 88 seconds.
By then, Jordan Owens had won a penalty when he was fouled by Eli Nielsen after getting on the end of a long Michael Ruddy throw.
He went on to cause plenty of problems for the visitors but not with his penalty, a tame effort towards the bottom corner that was stopped by Hans Jorgensen.
By half-time, the Crues had had nine pops at goal as Owens, Jordan Forsythe, Philip Lowry and Ross Clarke all tested Jorgensen.
While Lowry's one-on-one was well saved and Owens' header should have made life more difficult for Jorgensen, there was nothing the keeper could do about the opening goal.
It arrived on 33 minutes as debutant Hegarty bulleted home a close range header on a telling BJ Burns' cross.
That provided some welcome relief for the home support, who had watched B36's Arni Frederiksberg crash the crossbar with a free-kick in what could have been the most against the run of the play goal of the year.
The Crues struggled to gain the same momentum in the second half, the game more ragged in nature.
However, they got the same reward nonetheless, Philip Lowry adding the second strike with a fine finish. BJ Burns was again involved, this time his long ball headed on by Owens for midfielder Lowry to find the bottom corner.
B36 did cause a late scare when they came within inches of a game-changing away goal as substitute Brian Jacobsen headed wide with his first touch.
Should Crusaders win, they will travel to Molineux on Thursday, July 25 before hosting Wolves a week later on Thursday, August 1.
Malmo 7-0 Ballymena United
Ballymena were smashed 7-0 in Sweden as Malmo ran out predictably convincing winners.
The Braidmen did well to hold out their full-time hosts for the opening half-hour and even restrict Malmo to speculative efforts.
In fact, as the clock ticked towards the 30-minute mark, Adam Lecky came within inches of getting a telling touch on Stephen McCullough's cross before Jude Winchester went one better and tested the home goalkeeper.
It was perhaps cruel that those moments of hope came just minutes before Malmo's three minute double-salvo.
Both came from captain Markus Rosenberg as the 36-year-old skipper headed home and then seized on an error to convert.
It was three by the break, Erdal Rakip rolling home shortly before the whistle.
Malmo didn't take their foot off the pedal after the break either, scoring three more in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Franz Brorsson headed in from a corner won straight from the restart before Rosenborg caressed another finish for 5-0.
Guillermo Molins made it six and Rakip's second of the night completed the scoring.
Here's are tonight's early kick-offs as they happened:
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