Cragg goes through as a fastest loser

Alistair Cragg had a nervous wait before his qualification for Saturday's 5000m final at the European Athletics Championships was confirmed.

Cragg could not break into the top five in his heat over the closing lap, finishing sixth in 13:37.66 and outside of the automatic qualifying spots.

Heavy downpours in Barcelona left the Olympic Stadium track particularly treacherous, but the Irish champion looked comfortable as he took the field through 2000m.

Cragg was still in front with 1000m to go, with a split of 11:02.26, only to slip back over the final two laps.

Despite being outrun, he dug deep to hold onto the lead group of six athletes, headed by Azerbaijjan's Hayle Ibrahimov, a former Ethiopian, who strode out to take the win in 13:32.98.

It proved to be the fastest heat, with Spain's Alemyehu and Bezabeh (13:34.44) and British hopeful Chris Thompson (13:35.58) among the top five.

Cragg is a former European indoor champion at 3000m and will have been disappointed by the lack of pace in his legs over the closing stages.

The 30-year-old ran 13:07.10 at his peak in 2007, and can certainly mix it with the likes of Britain's Mo Farah, the winner of the second heat.

"I felt sluggish going into the race and lost momentum. I was pushing and made stupid moves," he said.

"But I got through - not as comfortably as I wanted - and the final gives me another chance. I know I'm as good as these guys."

Cragg's finishing time was enough to see him progress as one of five fastest losers, but his Irish team-mate, Mark Christie, struggled in the second heat, finishing out of contention in eleventh (14:12.68).

Christie, who lowered his personal best to 13:37.36 this year, said: "That was a bad expereince, I'm disgusted (with that) and have no excuses.

"I put myself in a pace that I was comfortable with, but I could not lift the pace when I needed to.

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