Stephen Baxter hails his history-makers as Crusaders ease past FK Ekranas

Stephen Baxter celebrates Crusaders' win in Lithuania
Stephen Baxter celebrates Crusaders' win in Lithuania

Stephen Baxter hailed Crusaders’ history-making success in Europe on Thursday.

The Shore Road men bagged an impressive 2-1 win over FK Ekranas in Lithuania to stroll to a 5-2 aggregate victory in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

It sets up a second qualifying round tie with Swedish outfit IF Brommapojkarna who defeated Finnish side VPS Vaasa 3-2 on aggregate.

Last night’s success completed a memorable night for the Crues, as they progressed in Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

In 13 previous attempts – dating back to the late 1960’s – the north Belfast club had failed to clear the first hurdle of any European competition.

“It is absolutely magnificant – an historic night for Crusaders Football Club,” declared Baxter.

“We had all the board members and supporters inside the changing room after the match.

“It is a proud moment for the club. Everyone will enjoy this moment as it is something special.

“We have had to wait a long time to progress in Europe, and tonight we have done it in style.”

Two goals from Paul Heatley secured Thursday’s win, with Lukas Kochanauskas replying for Ekranas.

“We have won both legs and come away with a 5-2 aggregate victory – it is a pretty emphatic result when you look at it,” Baxter added.

“The players deserve immense credit for the way they played over the two games. They stuck rigidly to the gameplan and got the result they deserved.”