Live match commentary
Crusaders FC (NIR) vs. Levadia Tallinn 0-0 (FT)
And it's all over! Levadia have managed to keep Crusaders out and will be favourites to progress. Their attacking threat was fairly minimal, with Teever working hard but finding himself isolated up top. Defensively Levadia will be very happy, and Taavi Rahn in particular was a reason for that. Kristal will be happy with the performance and will look to set his side up to go for it in Tallinn next week.
Look out for a full report and players performance ratings tomorrow!
90’ + 3 Kruglov tries his luck from 30 yards but his shot just evades the angle
Pikk finds Saag in the middle with a left wing cross, and the Levadia sub does well to turn and shoot low. The keeper is alert enough to get down low to it, however.
Rahn has been a rock tonight
4 mins added on
89’ Forsythe beats Rahkmanau down the left, but Rahn smashes the cross away
Levadia look like they will be heading back to Tallinn on level terms...
87’ Laitinen is booked for catching McClean after taking the ball. The crowd want blood, but Laitinen got the ball first before the man. McClean is up after looking hurt.
Stephen O'Flynn replaces Owens for Crusaders
85’ Teever off for Kairmar Saag for Levadia. Teever gets a good reception from the crowd for his hard-working performance.
84’ Another corner for Crusaders as the crowd cheer their side on
83’ Rakhmanau tries his luck from the centre circle but he sees his shot go harmlessly wide...surprisingly...
The Crusaders crowd are claiming for every decision.
Crusaders are starting to pressure again, making Levadia look a little edgy at the back
80’ Rahn is booked for handball after Heatley's flick on the left wing
79 Luts' cross from the left is flicked on by Teever with the ball evading Antonov, finding Elhussieny on the right instead. His low cross is blocked for a corner, which comes to nothing
78’ suicidal from Pikker! He passes the ball straight to substitute Forsythe 30 yards out, but luckily for Levadia his lob drops over the bar. What was he doing?!
76’ Jordan Forsythe replaces Caddell for Crusaders
Levadia are finding space wide but cannot do anything with it. Crusaders are certainly tiring now but are still posing more of an attacking threat
73’ Owens hits a tired shot way wide from out on the right
72’ Heatley is in behind the defence down the left again, but he has gone too early and is offside
71' Kruglov plays in Luts down the left again, but his low cross can't find Teever, who has been isolated in the middle when Levadia have played wide
70' Owens flicks Heatley through down the left, but Laitinen just does enough to force the Crusaders man to shoot wide of the far post. Good chance for the home side.
69' Teever gets up to head Luts' cross from the left but the ball goes over the bar with the striker under pressure
68’ Carvill does well to control a bouncing ball on the left of the box, but again Pikker is equal to the effort from outside the box
Levadia are managing to keep Crusaders at bay so far, but their attacking play has been very sporadic with their 4-1-4-1 setup
65' McClean gives it to Carvill on the left, and he cuts on to his right before trying to curl a shot from just on the edge of the box. Pikker isn't challenged enough and manages to pick the ball out of the air.
64' Pikk is booked for a tackle on Mitchell, with the crowd finally appeased
Levadia are starting to up the tempo now as Crusaders look to be tiring.
63' Anotonov shot is blocked in the box after Elhussieny tees him up
61' Antonov on for Marin
60' Burns shoots from the edge of the box but Pikker is equal to it down to his right
54' Luts tries to dance into the box but can't find Teever. Very few chances for Levadia, but they are dealing with their opponents...
52' Kruglov smashes over a 45-yard free kick. Ambitious to say the least...
51' Crusaders pressing again and win another corner
46' Clarke shoots wide from the edge of the box for Crusaders
And we're back underway!
And that's the end of the first half. Crusaders have been the better team and Levadia have looked a touch uneasy with their direct play, but it remains goalless. Levadia haven't really put anything meaningful together and will need to step up their attacking play in the second half.
45' One minute added time.
44' Pikk pulls down Heatley on the right edge of the box, but Coares low effort is easily saved.
38' Owens and Rahn come together in the Levadia box with both players holding their heads, but it's Owens who is booked and the crowd continue to go mad at the Icelandic ref.
36' Burns can't quite find Owens with a good ball over the top from the right, before Luts capitalises on a mistake by Robinson, but can only shoot wide from distance.
33' The match has become a little cagey, with Levadia putting in a couple of sturdy challenges, much to the ire of the home crowd. Teever's then slips after receiving a ball over the top from Kruglov.
30' Another Crusaders corner as Pikk blocks out Burns.
29' Rakhmanau's flick header from Siim's right wing free kick fails to trouble the keeper.
27' Mitchell's cross from way out on the right almost catches Pikker off guard, but the ball drops just over the bar.
26' Great chance for Crusaders! A deep free kick from the left by Clarke finds Owens unmarked at the far post, but his control lets him down and the balls goes harmlessly out for a goal kick. Levadia a little shaky at the back...
22' Heatley is caught offside from a Mitchell ball down the middle
20' Owens heads across the Levadia goal after meeting McClean's cross from the left. More direct wing play from Crusaders causing Levadia problems.
18' Teever cant head in from close range after a defensive mistake, Levadia corner
17' Caddell is booked for a strong tackle on Pikk in the centre circle as Levadi have a spell of pressure
14' Burns this time from the right can't quite find Heatley in the box
12' Kruglov's shot is blocked on the edge of the box
11' Crusaders putting plenty of pressure on down the wings, as good work from the tricky Heatley wins them another corner. Levadia clear though and Teever's cross from the left can't find Marin, but wins them their first corner.
7' Levadia almost go a goal behind! Pikker tips a Mitchell long ranger on to the crossbar.
4' Pikk receives treatment for a facial injury
2' Rakhmanau heads behind for a corner
1' Early pressure from Crusaders. Clarke shoots from the edge of the box, which is deflected for a corner. Levadia survive a couple of crosses back in.
- One change for Levadia from the 3-2 win at Tartu: Rahn comes in for Antonov
- The team sheets are in...
- The Levadia players are out warming up on the pitch in glorious sunshine here at Seaview Stadium, Belfast.
Match Preview by Chris Johns
Early team news
Crusaders - Midfielder Gavin Whyte is a slight doubt. Manager Stephen Baxter will not be at either leg as he is on holiday.
Levadia - Goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko misses out through suspension
What to Expect from Crusaders FC
If the 14/15 season is anything to go by Levadia Tallinn should be in for a goal-fest when they travel to face Crusaders FC in the Champions League First Qualifying Round in Belfast.
The Hatchetmen, Northern Irish Danske Bank Premier League champions last season, won by a 10-point margin and with a goal difference of +50, +26 better than the next best. More impressively, they scored in 36 of their 38 matches, 10 of which saw them put at least three goals past their opponents.
As worrying as those statistics may be, there is a glimmer of hope for Levadia at the other end of the pitch; Crusaders failed to keep a clean sheet in 26 of their 38 games, conceding at least two goals in 11 of those games. In a tournament where away goals count Levadia may need to throw a little of their caution to the wind and exploit any defensive rustiness their opponents may have accumulated during the off-season (the Northern Irish season ended two months ago.)
A whopping nine Crusaders players made it into the writers' team of the year, with manager Stephen Baxter taking the manager of the year gong.
Crusaders took a 3-2 victory in a friendly match against Welsh outfit Airbus UK on Saturday afternoon, with a Dairmuid O’Carroll penalty, a Paul Heatley 30-yard screamer, and an 87th minute goal from new signing Michael Carvill doing the business in a topsy-turvy match.
Manager Stephen Baxter's absence may also benefit Levadia, though he was missing this time last year as his side brushed Ekranas aside. It is understood that, as Crusaders are semi-professional, Baxter has decided to use this time to take a break from his position as manager at the club and from his own business dealings.
How Should Levadia Approach the Game?
The above friendly match was another example of Crusaders’ emphasis on attacking football, as well as their defensive frailties, and Levadia will certainly need to get a grip on the midfield to make sure they prevent service to the front two. Their opponents like to pump balls in to the box, so the wingers will need to be switched on to track back when necessary.
Sitting tight and hoping to sneak a draw or a 1-0 win is not likely to be an option for Levadia, and they may try to go toe-to-toe with their opponents. This approach may not suit the Tallinn outfit and much will depend on how they stop the supply to the Crusaders front-line.
A counter-attacking approach might be Levadia’s best bet, trying to punish Crusaders’ over-commitment to the attack, but the pressure is on Levadia to absorb their opponent’s attacking threat as well as posing enough threat of their own.
Players to Watch
Jordan Owens – 26 goals and 9 assists from 32 games is a cracking return for the striker. His partnership with Paul Heatley was devastating last season.
Paul Heatley – The 14/15 writers' player of the year bagged 22 goals and 9 assists to show what focus Levadia need to put on their setup. A good, scoring performance in his side’s 3-2 friendly win over Airbus UK on Saturday.
Michael Carvill – Another striker, Carvill is a recent signing for Crusaders and made a scoring impact in their 3-2 friendly win over Airbus UK on Saturday. Carvill is used to success, having won the double at previous club Linfield three times, and appears a perfect fit.
Model of Consistency
The fan-owned side are a good example of a patiently-run club, having spent the last few seasons slowly building their team before taking the title earlier this year. Manager Stephen Baxter is the club’s longest-serving boss, having been in charge for a whopping ten years.
Crusaders have had two cracks at the Champions League Qualifiers; their first attempt was back in the 97-98 season when they were knocked out at the first attempt by Georgian side Dinamo Tbilisi 8-2 on aggregate. Last season saw them fare slightly better, knocking out Ekranas of Lithuania 5-2 on aggregate (their only ever aggregate win in Europe in 15 attempts) before slumping to a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Brommapojkarna of Sweden in the second round. This was their joint best European adventure so far, having reached the Europa League second qualifying rounds in the 09/10 and 10/11 season, going down 5-3 and 7-1 on aggregate to Macedonian side Rabotnicki and then English Premier League outfit Fulham respectively. Crusaders have only ever won three matches in European competition (2-1 v Zalgiris Vilnius (h) 96-97 UEFA Cup, 3-1 and 2-1 v Ekranas (h, a) 13-14 Champions League 1st Qual. Round.)