MATCH PREVIEW: Heidelberg United v Avondale FC [NPL Men's Final]

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What a battle this promises to be. Heidelberg United the relentless winning machine, up against an Avondale side that may be out to gazump the Bergers’ “team of destiny” moniker. A team doesn’t win as often, or as dramatically as Heidelberg does without turning it into a skill.

From penalty shoot-outs like last week’s semi-final against Oakleigh Cannons or last year’s Dockerty Cup final, to Jack Petrie’s 97th minute winner in Tasmania in the NPL National Finals, to Kenny Athiu’s famous goal to eliminate Perth Glory from the FFA Cup. And if there was one team to trust to fill the void left by Athiu’s departure to the A-League, it’s George Katsakis’ Heidelberg.

Tom Cahill (pictured below) has spearheaded Heidelberg’s attack with 14 league while his bullocking work has assisted the supporting cast of Atilla Ofli (seven goals), Alex Schiavo and Harry Noon (six), Andrew Cartanos, Reuben Way and Sean Ellis (all five). Avondale also has firepower.

They made a lie of the “defence wins championships” cliche last season, so coach Anthony Barbieri and crew went out and recruited Liam Boland (16 league goals), Kaine Sheppard (14) and Joey Katebian (11) along with Elvis Kamsoba (eight). After a freak semi-final, scoring three times after the 115th minute to dump out Bentleigh Greens 4-3, anything seems possible.

Expect this match to be unfriendly. When the teams met most recently on the final day of the home and away season tempers remained cool as Avondale won 3-2 against a Heidelberg team with one eye on its busy cup fixture schedule.

But prior to that it was fire and fury in the Dockerty Cup as Heidelberg United won 3-2 and Avondale’s Kamsoba was sent off for landing on Bergers keeper Chris Theodoridis boots-first after attemping to hop over him. Boland thought his late equaliser had sent the game to a penalty shoot-out, only for Heidelberg to score almost immediately through Schiavo.

The first league head to head finished 1-1, but not before a brawl sparked by Heidelberg’s Luke Byles and Avondale’s Sheppard going nose to nose, a scorching free kick from Way, and one of the saves of the year from Theodoridis to deny Kamsoba at point blank. It sets the stage for an epic today, and the solidifcation of a new modern NPL Victoria rivalry into the future.

[caption id="attachment_33862" align="aligncenter" width="602"] Heidelberg United[/caption][caption id="attachment_33863" align="aligncenter" width="599"] Avondale FC[/caption]

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