A double from Lucas Derrick has seen Heidelberg United start their NPL Victoria Premiership defence in style after a resounding 3-0 derby day win over old foes South Melbourne FC.
Derrick delivered a goal in each half for the Bergers at Lakeside Stadium to bookend a classy goal from debutant Dusan Bosnjak to secure the visitors their first three points of the 2020 campaign.
The scoreline is a carbon copy of the visitors’ win in the final match of the 2019 home and away season – ensuring bragging rights remain with the yellow and black for the foreseeable future in one of Australian football’s most enduring rivalries.
The result lifts George Katsaki’s side to the top of the NPL Victoria standings ahead of opening day winners Oakleigh Cannons on goal difference, but with five further matches yet to be played in the opening round.
Both sides showed attacking intent from the kick-off, however, took time to shake off the pre-season rust and produced few early chances.
The first clear shots on target didn’t present until near the 20 minute mark, when Hellas duo Chris Irwin and Nick Krousoratis both directed strikes straight at Bergers gloveman Chris Theodoridis.
Daniel Clark scooped a long-range effort high in the 29th minute as the bulk of the attack remained with the hosts, however, the Bergers proved more clinical down the other end just a minute later – Derrick throwing himself at a cross from Josh Wilkins to head in the opening goal on the half-hour.
The breakthrough tilted the balance of play as Sean Ellis and Jack Petrie sent efforts wide as the half drew to a close for the visitors, however, Hellas also remained a threat as Krousoratis again called up Theodoridis to make a stop, while off-season strike recruit Harrison Sawyer headed wide from a corner in time added on.
The tempo and the derby niggle went up a notch after the restart but still the hosts suffered for their composure in the final third, with the Bergers defence – led by off-season recruit Lachlan Barr – rarely caught out in the second stanza.
Amadu Koroma saw a heavy touch spurn the hosts' best chance in the 53rd minute as he was closed down close on goal by Theodoridis, while Sawyer headed well wide under heavy marking from the ensuing corner.
Looking to catch their opponents on transition, the Bergers remained a more calculated threat without fashioning a shot from open play, although Ellis came close with a free-kick from outside 25 yards after the hour.
They found greater impetus from substitute Harry Noon – who headed wide from a corner just seconds after entering the pitch in the 66th minute, before failing to call on Hellas shot-stopper Pierce Clark with scuffed effort across the face shortly after.
With a quarter hour remaining another Bergers’ substitute, Amar Abdullah, did find the target with a dangerous strike on the angle parried away by Clark before Derrick spurned a chance to give his side breathing room with a shot over the bar a minute later.
With the finest of margins separating the sides frustrations were high – Hellas duo Jake Marshall and Brad Norton both getting booked for heavy challenges, while Heidelberg coach Katsakis also earned a booking as he rode every tackle from the sideline.
Irish recruit Steph Folan was the last to truly threaten for South Melbourne as he fizzed a free-kick wide in the 82nd minute, however, the search for the equaliser left the hosts exposed at the back allowing the Bergers to seal their win in the closing stages.
A swift transition from Heidelberg with five minutes remaining in regular time provided the opening for Bosnjak – played in to space, he drew out Clark before eliminating the keeper from the equation with a composed chipped finish from the edge of the penalty area.
The final blow then came with just seconds remaining in regular time as Derrick tucked away his second with a cool-headed first-time finish from near-on the penalty spot following creative build-up from Abdullah.
Feature image courtesy of South Melbourne FC