Crusaders lose 5-1 to Olimpija Ljubljana in first leg of Europa League clash

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

Crusaders have an uphill battle on their hands if they don’t want to make an early exit from the UEFA Europa League after losing 5-1 to Olimpija Ljubljana at the Stadion Stozice last night.

The home side went ahead on 30 minutes when defender Branko Ilic was allowed to run 40 yards before finding winger Nik Kapun.

His low cross across the area found Boateng who fired past O’Neill from close range and the Seaview outfit knew they were in for a busy night.

It was tough on the Crues as midfielder Forsythe had forced a save from Aljaz Ivacic with a rising volley just 14 minutes in.

Baxter’s men reacted positively to the setback and should have been level on 36 minutes when Declan Caddell was gifted the freedom of the Olimpija penalty area.

But he shot straight at the keeper who batted the ball to safety.

It was the home The Dragons on 56 minutes and what a strike it was from Crnic who has been capped twice by the Slovenian national team.

Stiglec’s low cross was half cleared to the edge of the area to Crnic who fired home after a clever exchange of passes with Kapun.

Boateng bagged his second of the night on 68 minutes, the forward latching onto a clever pass from Asmir Suljic to swoop a low shot under the sprawling O’Neill.

The Crues to their credit kept battling and Forsythe pulled one back five minutes later when his low 25-yard drive from a Heatley pass took a deflection past Ivacic.

But their joy was short lived as less than two minutes later Olimpija restored their commanding advantage when Crnic made a clever run to rifle home from a well worked Miskic free-kick.

Substitute Kadric then added salt to the wound, forcing the ball home in added time after O’Neill had parried an initial drive from fellow replacement Savic.

It means the Crues will need a miracle at home on Thursday night.