Heidelberg United fans experienced the highs and lows that football can bring in the space of just four days as the Bergers made a surprise exit from the NPL finals at the hands of Pascoe Vale SC at Olympic Village last Sunday.

The penalty shoot-out loss followed quickly on the heels of its FFA Cup success against Sydney United just four days before at the same venue.

Finals football once again delivered on its promise of great drama, as fans witnessed a sudden death match which included a red card, a controversial goal, and culminated in a penalty shoot-out.

The visitors looked sharper in the opening half and the home team definitely knew it had a challenge on its hands when defender Jamie Cumming saw red after he appeared to lash out at Pascoe Vales’ Davey van’t Schip.

The visitors took immediate advantage after the break, when skipper Joseph Youssef fired the ball into the net. But the Vales’ lead was short-lived as Heidelberg playmaker Andreas Govas equalised minutes later.

An exciting second half produced further clear chances to Yousseff for the Vales and Heidelberg striker Dan Heffernan, without addition to the score before the completion of full time.

Bergers fans thought they were on the way to the next final when wide forward Reuben Way put them ahead with a diving header early in extra time. However their joy turned to dismay when Jake Nakic equalised for the visitors early in the second period of extra time, with what was initially a disallowed goal for offside. The referee overturned the decision and the goal stood, sending the match to a penalty shoot out.

That was the cue for Vales keeper Alex Pavlidis to emerge as the hero, saving the first two Bergers’ penalties whilst the third struck the crossbar.

In contrast, Pascoe Vale converted all three penalties to advance to another knockout NPL final, this time to minor premiers South Melbourne on Friday. (The match was played yesterday evening after this edition went to print.)

Heidelberg United will now concentrate on the FFA Cup quarter finals.