Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Waterworth (Pen.) 40', Quinn 84'
Crusaders Scorer :
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Conor Pepper, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher, Niall Quinn, Kyle McClean, Bastien Hery (Shayne Lavery 71’), Kirk Millar, Navid Nasseri (Ryan McGivern 71’), Jordan Stewart (Stephen Fallon 61’), Andy Waterworth
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore (GK), Ross Larkin, Matthew Clarke, Daniel Kearns
Crusaders Team :
Sean O’Neill (Gk), Jordan Forsythe, Chris Hegarty, Rodney Brown, Michael Ruddy, Gary Thompson, Phillip Lowry, Ross Clarke (Adam Lecky 65’), Paul Heatley (David Cushley 79’), Ben Kennedy (Jordan Owens 56’), Jamie McGonigle
Crusaders Subs not used :
Gerard Doherty (GK), Declan Caddell, Jarlath O'Rourke, Rory Hale
A tactical battle with a mad finish. Linfield really had to dig deep to get past a spirited Crusaders team who threw everything at it during a late rally at Windsor Park, as the Blues made it three wins from their opening three games.
The first half was very much a tactical battle. There were spells where Linfield dominated the ball but couldn’t find a way through, before Crusaders looked to counter attack.
The first real chance of the game fell for Linfield and it came through what has been a deadly link-up service for the Blues so far this season. Conor Pepper got high on the right flank before putting in a great ball for Andy Waterworth and the striker headed just over.
Mark Haughey went close when he met Kirk Millar’s corners on two occasions, both times flashing a header just wide. Jimmy Callacher also met a Millar free-kick to the back post but he headed just over.
Crusaders’ best chance came after a bit of slack play from Linfield to give the ball away to Jamie McGonigle who raced towards the edge of the box before seeing his shot vitally blocked by Jimmy Callacher.
The Blues made the breakthrough five minutes before the break. Navid Nasseri slipped a neat pass into the overlapping Conor Pepper who surged into the box before beating Michael Ruddy to the ball and was subsequently fouled. Andy Waterworth stepped up to net his fourth goal of the season with a stylish penalty, dinked down the middle past the diving Sean O’Neill.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Crusaders
Linfield started the second half very well but couldn’t get a second goal during a strong spell. Navid Nasseri threatened twice in quick succession as his first shot was blocked and despite his penalty appeals for handball, the move continued before he fired wide from a similar position on the edge of the box.
Nasseri was played in inside the box a short time later by Bastien Hery who played well after coming on for the injured Jamie Mulgrew who picked up his injury at Ballymena last week. Nasseri however was met by Sean O’Neill who was out quickly to narrow the angle and block the shot.
Crusaders looked much improved when they brought summer signing Adam Lecky off the bench, and David Healy quickly looked to stop the visitors building any more momentum when he made a double change. Ryan McGivern came on at left back and Niall Quinn moved up to the left of midfield, whilst Shayne Lavery came on up top and Andy Waterworth played just off him in a deeper role.
And the introduction of David Cushley was also a good move by Crusaders and he threatened twice. A 5 yard free-kick was teed up to the winger and he unleashed a rasping drive which was met by a save equally as good as Chris Johns pushed the ball over. And soon after, Cushley put in a corner kick of high quality which was met by immense defending by the outstanding Jimmy Callacher who led by example with the armband on.
Linfield then got some relief when they added a second on 84 minutes. Neutrals could have been forgiven for thinking the game was settled when Niall Quinn produced a fantastic header from Kirk Millar’s right wing cross to make it 2-0, but the finish to the game was anything but comfortable.
Just two minutes later, Crusaders pulled one back to set-up a pulsating finish. Substitute Adam Lecky, who Stephen Baxter must have wished he’d introduced sooner, was the goalscorer as he rose in the box to nod home Jordan Forsythe’s cross.
The Crues fired everything at it, and apart from a dangerous loose ball rolling across the face of goal, Linfield dealt with everything well and showed grit and resilience at the death to get over the line.
Full Time: Linfield 2 – 1 Crusaders
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Jimmy Callacher