More penalty agony for Crusaders as Cliftonville win in controversial circumstances

Crusaders suffered more penalty agony as they crashed out of the European Play-offs in controversial circumstances.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 10:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 10:54 pm

After the drama of their Irish Cup semi-final defeat to Larne on spot kicks which saw Jonny Tuffey sent off the Crues were left distraught again as the game finished goalless after 120 minutes at Solitude

Both sides scored their first four penalties before Joe Gormley netted meaning Michael Ruddy had to score.

His spot kick struck the underside of the bar before hitting the ground and bouncing out again.

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Cliftonville celebrate after reaching the European Play-off final

The officials deemed it hadn't crossed the line, but television replays showed the ball had in fact dropped over the goal line, but it was missed by the officials.

Ruddy though was distraught as the Cliftonville progressed to Saturday's final against Larne

There was a welcome return to the squad for talisman Gormley, who has been out since January with an elbow injury.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter named an experienced side after resting a number of key players for Saturday's defeat at Glentoran.

It was the visitors who threatened first as Gary Thompson threaded a superb pass into Jamie McGonigle's path, he lifted the ball over Aaron McCarey, but Jamie Harney produced a fantastic goal line clearance to deny him.

Chris Curran then did well to block Paul Heatley's follow-up effort.

The Crues had made a dominant start and Billy Joe Burns was next to threaten as he headed over from a Paul Heatley corner.

David Cushley then teed up Ben Kennedy but it was a weak finish by the striker with 21 minutes played.

Stephen Baxter's men almost broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion on 37 minutes.

Kennedy did well to get to the byline and clip the ball back for Heatley whose attempted overhead kick fell the wrong side of the post.

Kennedy then whipped another great ball into the box but Daniel Larmour failed to get enough on his header to threaten McCarey as half time approached.

And seconds before the break Kennedy caused more problems from a set piece as he put it on a plate for Jordan Forsythe, but the midfielder headed over from four yards out.

The second half continued in a similar vein as Kennedy's delivery from a corner five minutes after the restart picked out Larmour at the back post, but his downward header was pushed away by McCarey.

Paddy McLaughlin shuffled his pack throwing on Ryan Curran for Michael McCrudden as he looked to get a foothold in the game.

They almost got their noses in front ten minutes after the break as Daire O'Connor got on the end of Donnelly's corner, but Jarlath O'Rourke was there to clear off the line.

Donnelly then made Jonny Tuffey work with a dangerous free kick as we moved into the last half hour.

The home side were in the ascendancy now and they should have edged in front on 68 minutes as Chris Curran picked out the run from O'Connor, but he could only produce a weak finish and Tuffey saved.

Neither side could find a winner in normal time though so it was on to extra time.

Understandably the additional 30 minutes was a cagey affair with both sides erring on the side of caution.

Things almost boiled over at the death as Declan Caddell and Harney squared up to each other following a robust challenge from the Reds defender.

It was on to the dread penalty shootout though to find a winner.

Hale, O'Connor, Ryan Curran, Paul O'Neill and Gormley all netted for the hosts with Kennedy, Cushley, O'Rourke, Larmour all responding before Ruddy's penalty was wrongly adjudged not to have crossed the line.

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