EUROPA LEAGUE: Heartbreak for Crusaders as Liepaja score late winner

Liepaja's Kristians Damians Torres in action with Crusaders Billy Joe burns
Liepaja's Kristians Damians Torres in action with Crusaders Billy Joe burns

It was heartbreak for Crusaders on Thursday night as an injury time goal saw their Europa League campaign end as they were beaten 2-0 by FK Liepaja in Latvia.

Just as it looked the Crues were heading through to the next round Arturs Karasausks’ goal four minutes into added time sent the Latvians through on away goals after Giorgi Eristavi had given the home side the lead from the penalty spot.

The Shore Road outfit had held a two-goal advantage going into the game, having secured a 3-1 victory in the first leg at Seaview last week and they were hopeful they could finish off the job last night - but it was not to be.

The home dominated the opening half with a string of good chances before being awarded a penalty following Howard Beverland’s challenge on Karasausks.

The defender will have been disappointed as his side were looking to not concede for as long as they can.

The talented Eristavi dispatched the spot kick past goalkeeper Brian Jensen, who was making only his second appearance for his new club and the Crues knew they were in a game

Jensen was forced into action on several occasions as the Belfast side - who were defending well - were unable to register an attempt in the first 45 minutes.

Crusaders did create opportunities after the break as Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens tested Valentins Ralkevics in the Liepaja goal - but they could not get the vital away goal they needed.

Chances came and went for Matthew Snoddy and Gavin Whyte as the Crues failed to find an away goal that surely would have ended the tie and the pressure was mounting.

Having scored the telling away goal at Seaview a week ago, it was Karasausks who was again the hero for the Latvians as his injury-time winner sent his side through to the second qualifying round.

Liepaja will now face Lithuanian side Suduva as Crusaders’ focus turn to the impending start of the new Irish Premiership season.