Despite winning the Danske Bank Premier League last season with the second meanest defence in the province, Crusaders have had to endure their second European away day humbling in the space of fifteen days.
Having been torn apart by Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in the first qualifying round of the Champions League, being turned 7-0 in Bulgaria before a 2-0 defeat at Seaview, Stephen Baxter’s charges came up against Slovenian outfit Olimpija Ljubljana in Europa League qualifying this evening.
And like many a group of Irish lads that have turned up for a couple of days on the banks of the beautiful Ljubljanica River – they were well and truly spanked.
Despite a bright start by the Shore Road men, the home side took the lead on the half hour, former AC Milan youngster Kingsley Boateng tapping in from close range.
Declan Caddell was guilty of missing a guilt edge chance six minutes later when robbing an Olimpija defender but shooting straight at keeper Aljaz Ivacic.
The Slovenians smoothly went through the gears after the break, however, Slovenian international midfielder Matic Crnic doubling his sides advantage just before the hour and Boateng grabbing his second of the game in the 68th minute.
Any glimmer of hope that Crusaders might have had in the tie was briefly illuminated with seventeen minutes to go, when Jordan Forsythe’s speculative shot deflected off centre half Branko Ilic and into the net.
But that light was quickly extinguished only two minutes later when Crnic hammered home his second.
Olimpija had just enough time for one more, teenage substitute Haris Kadric scoring his first goal for the club.
Crusaders will welcome Olimpija to Belfast next Thursday evening, but have surely given themselves too much to do, spelling an imminent end to Northern Irish participation Europe for another season