Jordan Owens (Picture: Stephen Hamilton/PressEye.com)

OWENS GOAL GIVES CRUES SECOND LEG HOPE

A Jordan Owens goal early in the second half has given Crusaders a glimmer of hope going into the second leg of their Champions League clash with Albanian side Skënderbeu.

Despite losing 4-1 in Korçë the Crues do have that away goal to potentially use as a springboard to recover the tie next Tuesday night at Seaview.

Skënderbeu moved in front after a quarter-of-an-hour when Malian Bakary Nimaga flicked the ball home from just outside the six-yard box following a period of pressure.

The Crues might have levelled on 32 minutes when Skënderbeu 'keeper Orges Shehi missed a Craig McClean free-kick only for Owens to nod narrowly wide.

But, just a couple of minutes later, a Bernard Berisha effort from outside the area was let slip by Sean O'Neill allowing Hamdi Salihi to touch home the loose ball.

However, barely three minutes into the second half, Owens grabbed what could prove to be a crucial away goal for Stephen Baxter's side after nodding a superb long range pass from Billy Joe Burns beyond past Albanian international Shehi.

The hosts almost restored their two-goal cushion on the hour after Croatian defender Marko Radaš rattled the Crusaders crossbar with a 30-yard free-kick.

Unfortunately Skënderbeu did grab their third with just under a quarter-of-an-hour remaining courtesy of a Berisha finish.

And they added a fourth on 84 minutes with Salihi's second of the game when he beat the offside trap to get on the end of Bledi Shkëmbi's through ball.

It might have been 5-1 in the closing moments after Tefik Osmani rose to direct a header downwards towards goal but O'Neill produced a fantastic save to keep the ball out.

Skënderbeu: Shehi, Arapi, Osmani, Vangjeli, Radaš, Progni, Nimaga, Shkëmbi, Salihi, V. Hristov, Berisha subs Lapanji, Jashanica, Dema, Abazi, Latifi, Esquerdinha, Abilaliaj

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Robinson, McClean, Mitchell, Caddell, Clarke, Owens, Heatley, Carvill subs McKibbin, Stewart, Forsythe, Snoddy, O'Hanlon, O'Carroll, O'Flynn

Tags:  Crusaders