It was always going to be a mission impossible for Crusaders in last night’s Europa League clash with IF Brommapojkarna at sunny Seaview.
They shipped four goals in last week’s first leg in Sweden which meant that Stephen Baxter’s boys were playing for pride in front of their home fans
But they went down with all guns blazing with Colin Coates heading them into an early lead. Even though Dardan Rexhepi levelled matters before the interval, the Crues can hold their heads high following a gutsy performance.
With Josh Robinson and Declan Caddell both suspended Baxter drafted in new boy Stephen Cockcroft and veteran defender Paul Leeman.
The Crues roared from the traps with Cockcroft whipping over a teasing cross which fell invitingly for Paul Heatley, but his low drive lacked conviction.
Crues goalkeeper Sean O’Neill was forced into a fantastic double save on 15 minutes, getting down to paw away a thunderbolt from Rexhepi and then somehow managing to block the follow up by Gustav Sandberg Magnusson.
But it was the Crues’ faithful who were on their feet two minutes later with that Coates effort.
Cockcroft was the provider, firing in another dangerous corner and the skipper’s downward header left Davor Blazevic helpless.
Big Jordan Owens then went down inside the penalty area after clashing with Carl Starfelt, but Swiss referee Alain Bieri waved away all claims for a penalty.
Crusaders came within a coat of point of stretching their lead on 20 minutes. Chris Morrow’s free kick was flicked on by Coates and Cockcroft’s dipping header crashed off the crossbar.
Brommapojkarna silenced the noisy home supporters on 27 minutes by equalising. Kristinn Jonsson’s deep free kick was volleyed in by Rexhepi at the back post.
And, they almost did it again on 36 minutes when Serge-Junior Martinsson Ngouali got in behind the Crues defence and, as O’Neill rushed off his line, the midfielder slipped his shot past the post when he really should have scored.
The Crues were right out of luck on 51 minutes when a Coates free kick was met by Owens, whose header was smothered by Blazevic.
Billy Joe Burn blasted one just over the top before Blazevic produced the save of the night, flipping another Owens header over the crossbar following a cross from substitute Gary McCutcheon.
The Crues were given a great ovation by their fans as they made the way to the dressing room at the finish -- it was certainly warranted.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Leeman, Coates (Magowan 81), Morrow (Snoddy 57), O’Carroll, McClean, Owens, Clarke, Cockcroft McCutcheon 63), Heatley.
Subs: Whyte, Dillon, O’Hanlon, Duffin.
IF Brommapojkarna: Blazevic, Johnsson, Karlstrom (Albornoz 68), Petrovic, Ngouali, Rexhempi, Bjorkstrom, Starfelt, Asbrink (Homquist 64) Magnusso (Soderstrom 79), Larrson.
Subs: Barkroth, Flakeborn, Vazgec.
Referee: A Bieri (Switzerland).