Heidelberg United’s excellent season continues from one high to the next as the club followed up last Sunday’s Premier Plate clinching 5-3 win against Bulleen Lions, with a penalty shoot-out victory away to Sydney United in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night to secure a quarterfinal berth.
Both wins ensure that Heidelberg continues to feature in the two national competitions available to federation member clubs: the FFA Cup and the National NPL cup competition.
Sunday’s 5-3 win against Bulleen Lions came by virtue of a barnstorming finish after the Bergers twice trailed by two goals during the game. Trailing 3-1 at the 75th minute, the Bergers scored four goals late in the game to secure a historic first ever Premier’s Plate trophy, to go alongside their first ever Dockerty Cup won just six weeks prior. Athiu and Noon each scored a brace and Josh Wilkins added the fifth in injury time.
For Heidelberg coach George Katsakis, winning the Premier’s Plate is very significant. “It’s something we were really looking forward to, [and] worked really hard to achieve. These moments will stay with us for a very very long time. Having come off a Dockerty Cup win, some people would have said ‘Okay, we’re settled because we’ve got some silverware’. But contrary to that I just wanted to win the Premier’s Plate and of course the premiership itself in a couple of weeks’ time if we can, just to fulfil a massive year.”
There were echoes of the Bergers’ Dockerty Cup final triumph, in Heidelberg’s hard fought FFA Cup Round of 16 win away to Sydney United at Edensor Park on Wednesday.
Both games went to penalties with the score locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time. In the ensuing penalty shoot-outs, it was Heidelberg keeper Chris Theodoridis who made the telling save to give the Bergers victory. Katsakis was full of praise for his players after their FFA Cup win calling it a remarkable achievement. “The message that was received by the players and executed by the players, they delivered the plan and the message to perfection. And that, to me, was very important knowing that my players are responding, [it] is incredibly rewarding for me. There’s a different culture here. You can’t buy this. You can’t bring players in overnight and allow this culture to transpire in a year or two. It takes time.”
While the Bergers have scaled new heights this season, new peaks remain for it to conquer. It remains just a semifinal win away from the chance to compete in the NPL 1 grand final and become the first Victorian team in the NPL era to win the treble, an achievement which has thus far proven elusive for the dominant teams of the past few NPL seasons, South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens.
Katsakis says “We’re two games away from winning a grand final and creating history. For me on a personal level, that’s definitely the goal. The FFA Cup, to this point, we’ve achieved a great achievement. But the national premiership is probably the most significant after the championship, because it gives you the opportunity to play the other champion NPL teams in Australian to be crowned the NPL Champion of Australia, and access the branding rights that come with it, and more importantly the automatic qualification in the Round of 32 in the FFA Cup next year.”