Heidelberg United – the dominant side of NPL Victoria in recent seasons – has written yet another chapter in their long and celebrated history by capturing their third successive NPL Victoria Premiership.
The Bergers – who also won their 2017 Premierships as part of a dramatic slate of final day NPL Victoria games – headed to the familiar, but hostile, confines of Lakeside Stadium on Sunday knowing the three points secured against old foes South Melbourne would be enough to capture them a historic three-peat.
Fittingly for such a potentially historic occasion, Sunday’s clash between the traditional rivals also marked the celebration of South’s 60th anniversary; club legends returning to Lakeside and the club releasing a special commemorative kit in preparation for the meeting between Hellas and Alexander.
Unfortunately for those hoping for drama, or those Avondale fans hoping South would do them a favour and serve as a final-day banana skin for Head Coach George Katsakis’ side, the Bergers fired themselves ahead at Lakeside after just ten minutes of play when Sean Ellis – despite the howls of protest from South defenders looking for an offside flag – got on the end of a ball played into the area by a long throw-in to tap home and make it 1-0 in the 10th minute.
Tom Cahill forced his way to the byline and whipped in a ball for Alex Schiavo to turn in in the 40th minute to make it 2-0 before Andrew Cartanos put the cherry on the sundae when he cut inside from the left and slid a ball home to make it three in the 95th minute.
For Katsakis and his Alexander side, it means that they have now claimed the 2017 Dockerty Cup, NPL National Championship, and Premiers’ Plate, the 2018 Community Shield, Premiers’ Plate and Championship and the 2019 Premiers’ Plate; with the potential of more silverware to come.
Elsewhere in NPL Victoria, in which a furious slate of seven simultaneous games produced 28 goals, Avondale ensured that regained some sense of momentum heading into the NPL Victoria finals with a 3-0 win over Bentleigh Greens.
The two grounds that will host week one of the finals campaign were also determined, with Oakleigh Cannons 3-0 win over Green Gully enough to see them leapfrog their opponents into the third position on the table.
As previously mentioned, however, Bentleigh proved unable to get a result against Avondale and punish Gully for their defeat at the hands of Head Coach Chris Taylors’ side, whilst Hume City’s 5-1 upset defeat at the hands of Kingston City meant that the side from Green Gully Reserve was able to survive Round 26 of the NPL Victoria season inside the top four.
Oakleigh will host Hume in the first week of the finals, whilst Gully is set to receive a visit from the Bentleigh Greens.
In a bitterly disappointing turn of events for the South-East Melbourne side, Kingston City’s relegation from the topflight of Victorian football was sealed on Sunday despite that aforementioned heavy victory over finals bound Hume City.
Needing Melbourne Knights to at least get something from their visit to Dacland Stadium and the Dandenong Thunder in order to retain any chance of staying up, Kingston could only rally in vain at ABD Stadium as news filtered through that the Thunder were piling on goals of their own against Croatia; Brandon Barnes producing a vintage performance with a hattrick that to combine with Blake Carpenter’s 94th-minute sealer and ensure that the Thunder will compete in the NPL Victoria Promotion and Relegation Playoff this September.
Despite their 2-1 win over Altona Magic, Pascoe Vale was also relegated from NPL Victoria on Sunday; the long-shot odds of a scenario in which they stayed up not eventuating as all three of the bottom-placed sides recorded wins.
Photo Credit: Mark Avellino