Defending national champions Heidelberg United sounded an ominous warning to their NPL Victorian opponents on Friday night, defeating Bentleigh Greens 4-1 at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex to claim the FFV Community Shield.
It was a dominating first half display from the Bergers that secured them their win, the result affording George Katsakis’ outfit some measure of revenge on a Bentleigh Side that defeated them 2-1 in the 2017 NPL Victoria grand final last September.
Perhaps it was this desire for revenge that saw the game played in a manner less than befitting of it’s community-focused name, with a number of pull-apart altercations occurring throughout the contest, with one even flaring up after the referee had blown the final whistle.
When play was not halted to deal with the latest fracas, Heidelberg proved clinical in front of goal. Strikes by the newly signed Tom Cahill in the 14th and 38th minutes and a 44th-minute header from Alexander Schiavo gave Heidelberg a 3-0 lead heading into the break, before a 50th minute strike from cult hero Harry Noon made it 4-0 with 40 minutes left to play.
Heidelberg easily controlled the pace of the game for much of the opening hour, Adrian Zahra and Sean Ellis in particular looking to have tapped into some good form early in the season as they bossed the midfield, while Noon found himself in a new role further up the park, working next to Cahill to pressure the Greens defenders.
Up 4-0 and with the game seemingly secured, Heidelberg would ease off the gas after the hour mark, enabling the Greens to begin to show some signs of life, hitting the crossbar twice before eventually grabbing a late consolation goal through Jack Webster in the 81st minute.
However, the Greens never gave the impression that they could truly threaten the Bergers, with Bentleigh Head Coach John Anastasiadis given plenty to think about before his side host the newly promoted Dandenong Thunder in NPL Victorian season opener next Thursday.
With yet another addition to their trophy cabinet at Olympic Village secured, Heidelberg will now turn their attention to their Round 1 clash, a trip to Port Melbourne to take on the Sharks on Saturday night.
Earlier in the evening, Calder United defeated South Melbourne in the women’s FFV Community Shield 2-1.
Header image credit: Andrew Ho // BGSC