Irish Premiership: Linfield edge Cliftonville in top-of-the-table clash as Crusaders hammer 10-man Carrick

A late Joel Cooper header gave Linfield a 2-1 win over Cliftonville in the Irish Premiership top-of-the-table encounter at Windsor Park.

His winner came just three moments after Luke Turner had bundled home to equalise Chris McKee's first-half opener for the hosts.

The victory moved David Healy's men three points above the Reds at the top.

Crusaders continued their winning start as Ben Kennedy hit four in their 9-0 thumping of 10-man Carrick Rangers.

Stephen Baxter's men have now won all of their opening three Irish Premiership matches and they move above Cliftonville into second place in the table on goal difference.

At Windsor Park, Linfield maintained 100% start to the Premiership campaign as they came out on top in what was an end-to-end encounter.

Both sides had chances to break the deadlock in the first half with Linfield goalkeeper Chris Johns having to make up for a misplaced pass to deny Rory Hale from 35-yards after the Reds midfielder spotted him off his line and tried an audacious chip.

The Blues' opening goal on the stroke of half time came when man-of-the-match Cooper dispossessed Ronan Doherty and went on a surging run before slipping a pass to McKee, whose well-hit strike took a strong deflection before finding the net for his sixth goal of the season.

The Reds levelled 11 minutes from time after a well-worked short corner routine resulted in Turner stabbing home following a Doherty strike from inside the penalty area.

Cliftonville were not level for long, though, as Cooper netted his third league goal of the season with a back-post header from a Matthew Clarke cross eight minutes from time to secure all three points for the Blues.

Kennedy hits four as Crues thump 10-man Carrick

At Seaview, Crusaders moved into second place in the table after a stunning 9-0 eclipse of Carrick Rangers.

Remarkably, given what was to transpire, it was Carrick who came close to taking a fifth-minute lead when the ball dropped to Danny Purkis on the corner of the six yard box. He lofted the ball over keeper Jonny Tuffey towards the back post but the alert Jarlath O'Rourke was on hand to head off the line.

Paul Heatley had a snap-shot saved by Ross Glendinning before the frontman gave Crusaders the lead in the 11th minute, Billy Joe Burns scooping the ball over the top of the Carrick defence for Heatley to round Glendinning and roll the ball into an unguarded net.

The home side doubled their advantage on 21 minutes when Adam Lecky hooked the ball over his head for Kennedy to outpace the Carrick defence before taking a great first touch and curling a shot past Glendinning.

It was 3-0 four minutes later when Crusaders broke at pace with Heatley bursting into the penalty area before unselfishly laying the ball off for Kennedy, who looked destined to score, only to be pushed down by Kyle Cherry.

The Carrick midfielder was dismissed by referee Ben McMaster and Kennedy picked himself up to slot home the spot kick.

Kennedy completed a seven-minute hat-trick with a stunning volley on 28 minutes, running onto a dropping ball from a header to arrow a shot past Glendinning.

Not content with three, Kennedy added a fourth goal on 40 minutes. This time Jarlath O'Rourke burst into the left hand side of the penalty area and his cut-back got the faintest of flicks from Heatley before Kennedy fired a rising drive high into the net.

The second half brought no respite for Carrick as, with just over a minute on the clock, Philip Lowry broke into the visitors' penalty area to steer home a sixth goal.

That turned to seven on 54 minutes with Kenendy this time turning provider with a marvellous teasing cross to the back post which was headed home by the in-rushing Burns.

An eighth goal duly followed on 63 minutes as Jimmy Callacher arrived with a trademark header to meet a Ross Clarke corner for his first goal since his summer switch from Linfield.

Another Clarke corner set up Crusaders' ninth goal as his delivery to the back post wasn't cleared and substitute James Teelan was on hand to fire home from inside the penalty area.