CRUSADERS CHANGE EUROPEAN FOCUS

Crusaders' Rodney Brown reacts after scoring an own goal last night
Crusaders' Rodney Brown reacts after scoring an own goal last night

Irish League champions Crusaders unsurprisngly bowed out of the Champions League last night.

They lost 2-0 at Seaview to Bulgarian champions, Ludogorets - but having trailed 7-0 from last week’s first leg in this first round qualifying tie their cause was almost hopeless.

It was not helped that Rodney Brown - who had scored an own goal last week - spectacularly put past his own keeper again last night in the 11th minute to give the visitors the lead.

In the second half Jakub Swierczok drilled home a low right-foot shot in the second half.

In spite of losing the tie, Crusaders are still in Europea and will move into the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

The north Belfast club will now face Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia or Azerbaijan side Qarabag in their next European tie next week.

Crusaders began brightly with Michael Carvill firing a right-foot shot wide but Brown’s misfortune immediately handed the initiative to their opponents.

Swierczok, scorer of an eight-minute hat-trick last week, fired a right-foot pass into the danger area and under-pressure full-back Brown lofted the ball right-footed over home goalkeeper Sean O’Neill.

Ludogorets had chances to extend their lead before the break but O’Neill saved well from Georgi Terziev’s header, while Jody Lukoki hit the woodwork.

After half-time Lukoki and Marcelhino went close in quick succession and Jordan Forsythe headed wide from Ross Clarke’s free-kick, before seeing his header from the resultant corner crash off the bar.

Polish international Swierczok extended his side’s advantage after 65 minutes, completing a neat build-up by firing low right-footed into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.

O’Neill denied Swierczok’s headed effort, Jorge Broun saved David Cushley’s left-foot shot and O’Neill also pushed away Joao Paulo’s drive in the closing minutes.

p The New Saints were 4-0 winners last night against Shkendija, but went out 5-4 on aggregrate while Cork City went out 4-0 on aggregrate to Legia Warsaw.