Heidelberg lost 2-1 against Altona in an upset at Paisley Park.
A John Thornley double set up the vital victory, in a match, which had eight yellow cards, three goals and a red card. The win is a huge step in avoiding relegation for the Magic, while the loss casts a huge shadow over Heidelberg’s chances of playing finals in 2010.
Heidelberg was on the attack within the first 45 seconds of the match. Luke Byles played a ball into the box for Yanni Galanos, before his vicious strike only just over flew the crossbar.
Nick Marinos set up George Slefendorfas for one of the best chances of the match, to be one out with Tomislav Tomich in the 8th minute. Tomich did well to save the shot at Slefendoras’ feet and deny Heidelberg the opener.
Heidelberg came a step closer just one minute later with Tony La Verde hitting the post from distance, with Tomich well and truly beaten.
The chances kept on coming thick and fast, with Saso Alexovski going close twice with two efforts within five minutes as one another.
Altona were struggling to produce any flow in their game play, with Heidelberg’s well organised back four and two holding midfielders making life difficult for the Magic’s forwards to create any dangerous counter attacks.
Against the run of play Altona had a very unlikely opener, courtesy of John Thornley. It was the first time Altona broke United’s defensive line with a counter attack, utilising the space down the left hand side. Thornley backed himself the whole way in and he proved to be too difficult to catch, before keeping a cool head for a classy finish.
After the goal the match began to settle, as Altona began to hold the ball in midfield more frequently, beginning to dictate the way the match was going to be played.
Heidelberg failed to capitalise on their chances in the first 45 minutes, allowing Altona to take an unlikely 1-0 lead going into the second half.
Heidelberg came out very much the same way as he did in the first, setting up Craig Elvin for a half volley effort, which flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Nick Marinos almost had the equaliser two minutes later after beating Tomich with a smart chip, only to be denied by a desperate James Ducevski, who did well to clear the ball off the line.
The match eventually began to settle down once again, with a midfield battle, very much like the one witnessed towards the end of the first half, being played out with little penetration of the final third.
Heidelberg finally got their equaliser in the 58th minute with a wonderful strike from Saso Alexovski. Alexovski gave Tomich no chance with a cleanly hit strike from outside the box.
Altona almost had the lead back immediately, after a wild Mathew Theodore cross made its way across the face of goal, failing to hit any of the Magic forwards throwing themselves at the ball.
The play began to open back up following the goal, with both teams seeming to be searching for all three points in an extremely important match for both clubs.
The winner came in the 69th minute, with Thornley adding another to his night’s tally. It came after a dreadful Steve Tilovski attempted clearance only went as far as Thornley’s feet, allowing Thornley to waltz in for the easiest of finishes, raising the roof off the terrace at Paisley Park.
Altona continued to press after the goal, going in for the kill, while Heidelberg’s shape began to crumble before them, allowing Altona much more room on attack.
Substitute Sime Kovacevic almost put the finishing touches on the night in the 83rd minute, as his decent right foot strike went narrowly wide of the post.
Heidelberg’s Denis Alilovic went inches away from scoring a late equaliser in the 89th minute from a free kick, after a dubious decision by the referee right on the edge of the 18 yard box.
There was more drama to come just seconds after the free kick, when Heidelberg’s Nicholas Marinos was sent off after knocking over Altona’s Pece Cergovski at a stoppage.
Tempers began to flare after both teams argued with the referee over the positioning of a throw-in in the final minute of normal time. Marinos was sent packing, while Altona’s Koce Delev also received a yellow for his involvement in the clash.
Scenes of jubilation welcomed the final whistle, after a very eventful second half.
The win takes Altona off the bottom of the ladder and puts them equal on points with the Melbourne Knights, depending on tomorrow’s clash.
A win would have shot Heidelberg up into fifth position, but now they have an extremely hard task ahead of them in the final four rounds if they are to make the finals for 2010.
Courtesy of Football Federation Victoria