Crusaders face an impossible task in Copenhagen clash
Uefa Champions League second qualifying round, second leg:
FC Copenhagen v Crusaders (Tuesday, 7.15pm, Parken Stadium)
THE highest natural point in Denmark is just 170 metres above sea level, but it pales in comparison to the scale of the challenge Crusaders face in the Scandinavian capital on Tuesday.
The Danske Bank Premiership champions will take to the field with their Champions League hopes all but dead already. Bidding to become the first side from Ireland ever to reach the group stages, they will begin the evening chasing a 3-0 deficit having been comprehensively outplayed at Seaview last week.
Crues boss Stephen Baxter labelled the champions of Denmark as “the best I have seen” after goals from Federico Santander, Andreas Cornelius and Rasmus Falk left them with one foot in the third qualifying round.
Swedish international goalkeeper Robin Olsen was forced into a couple of scrambling saves by the hosts, most notably by debutant David Cushley’s 40-yard effort, but the visitors were largely untroubled. The Crusaders boss admitted Copenhagen were “fitter, sharper and stronger than us” in the wake of the game.
Santander’s early goal displayed the set-piece threat Crusaders will have to try and contain again. The Paraguayan headed home from a corner by Ludwig Augustinsson, who was also in Sweden’s Euro 2016 squad, along with starting left-back Erik Johansson.
Baxter wasn’t deflated by his side’s first leg performance, highlighting the difference in the resources available to the two clubs. He will view this with realism - it’s unlikely they will qualify, but it will be extremely valuable in terms of fitness ahead of the start of the domestic season, which begins with the visit of Ballymena United next Saturday.
With Linfield and Glenavon gone from the Europa League qualifiers and Cliftonville hanging on ahead of their second leg on Thursday night after a 3-2 home defeat at home by Larnaca, the Danske Bank Premiership could have no-one left in Europe by the end of the week.