Crusaders produced a display of pride and passion against Premier League outfit Wolves before falling to a 2-0 defeat described by boss Stephen Baxter as “the best performance for almost 20 years”.
Wolves’ line-up for a first European appearance in almost four decades was packed with top-level experience as Diogo Jota broke the deadlock before Ruben Vinagre’s late strike - following a lapse by goalkeeper Sean O’Neill - secured control ahead of next week’s return leg in Belfast.
“It’s the best performance they’ve given us, I played here for six years and have managed for 14,” said Baxter. “It’s the best performance for almost 20 years.
“In the last 20 seconds you don’t want to be conceding another but I’m very proud of the team.
“When the opposition manager says, ‘bravo, your team were superb tactically’ you have to take that as a compliment.
“To put on a show like that when we could have got hammered, it fills me with a lot of pride.
“Sean was a little bit down but he had a great game and I won’t let that small lapse take away from his game.
“It’ll be a different game at Seaview, a small ground and plastic pitch.”
Nuno Espirito Santo is demanding more from Wolves over the second leg.
“It (a second goal) makes a difference, no doubt, but we have to look at the game and what moment we are in,” he said. “Crusaders are well organised, they were deep and there was no space but we need to be faster, more accurate and sharper.
“All these things will come with hard work.”