Crusaders battled to a fine 3-1 win over Latvian side FK Liepaja in the first round Europa League qualifier at Seaview on Thursday evening .
It was indeed Stephen Baxter’s side who started the brighter as Paul Heatley raced through on five minutes he hit a low shot across goal before Leonel Strumia cleared the ball off the line .
It was that man Heatley who had the next opening for the Shore Road club on thirteen minutes as he blazed over from eight yards out after Jordan Owens had flicked a long Rodney Brown throw in on at the back-post .
It was all Red and Black pressure in the opening stages as Michael Carvill should have opened the scoring on seventeen minutes but he took a heavy touch after a defence splitting pass from Matthew Snoddy .
However the pressure did pay of as the home side took the lead on the half hour when Brown’s throw was once again flicked on by Owens the ball falling to Phillip Lowry who smashed his strike into the net with aplomb.
One than became two five minutes later as former Lisburn Distillery midfielder Jordan Forsythe ran from deep he tried to pick out Snoddy however he over-hit his pass luckily for him Carvill was running in to arrow his strike low into the left bottom hand corner of the net .
With a comfortable lead Crusaders then lost concentration for a minute allowing Liepaja to create a good opportunity as Strumia hit a low shot off the post the ball fell to Valerijs Afanasjevs who thumped his shot straight at Brian Jensen.
Jensen then was once again called into action on forty two minutes as he was alert to keep out a low stinging shot from Damians Torress the ball rebounded out to Kristaps Grebis who fired over the top.
Liepaja should have pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time as Grebis stabbed wide after a low cross from Dario Tomic from the right .
Crusaders started the second half on top as they scored their third on fifty five minutes when the superb Carvill floated in a corner to the back-post for Owens to stab into the net past the despairing dive of Pavels Dorosevs.
However the Latvian’s in their fourteenth game of the season then started to take advantage of the Irish League side tiring when Colin Coates made a last ditch clearance from a low Arturs Karasauks effort.
However from the resulting corner Karasauks did have his goal and what might prove to a vital away goal for FK Liepaja when he struck from twenty five yards the ball beating Jensen via the underside of the crossbar .
It was so nearly 3-2 on sixty five minutes as Toress found Marks Kurtiss with a cross before the latter crashed a header off the woodwork.
It was all pressure from the visitors and they should have pulled another goal back on sixty seven minutes as Karasauks was teed up outside the box before he narrowly fired over the crossbar.
Jensen then kept the two goal intact the former Burnley stopper making a fine save from a Tomic header who was left unmarked from a Karasauks corner.
Baxter was then forced into a concerning substitution on eighty two minutes with star man Heatley limping off to be replaced by Gavin Whyte.
The final action of the game saw Jensen make another fantastic save on eighty eight minutes as he tipped over a Dmitrjjs Hmizs effort from six yards out .
This was how it was to finish as Crusaders bring a healthy two goal lead to Daugava Stadium next Thursday .