by John Fotinos
Heidelberg United’s 2023 campaign got off to a flat start at the Olympic Village on Friday night. A healthy season opener home crowd was left frustrated as the ‘Bergers failed to contrive an equaliser, ultimately going down to the only goal of the game against Dandenong Thunder.
A new look outfit, with Chris Theodoridis back in goals, with new signings Masuda and Dixon in the back four, Lesiotis in the middle and Wilson up forward, could not break down a stubborn Thunder defence – whose goalkeeper Mawith made several fine saves.
The ‘Bergers were missing several key players, with skipper Zahra in at left back in place of the injured Nikolaidis, and striker Kenny Athiu unavailable through injury. Midfield general Dom Falla, also recovering from a knock in preseason, took his place on the substitute’s bench.
With a slightly unsettled back four, the ‘Bergers paid the ultimate price in the first quarter hour, with Dandenong winger Mazis pouncing on a loose ball inside the box to fire Dandenong into the lead. The uncertainty in the ‘Berger defence almost cost the home side on at least two further incidents, but for some profligate finishing and good keeping, with there being no further scoreboard damage.
The second half saw the home side increase the pressure, particularly with the introduction of fresh legs. However, despite several threatening opportunities, Heidelberg came up short, and ultimately emptyhanded. For Dandenong, it was the third successive NPL win over Heidelberg at this venue.
Heidelberg will spend the week licking its wounds ahead of another Friday night match up – this week at Hume City (ABD Stadium, Broadmeadows), at 7:30pm (February 24) in its NPL-V Round 2 fixture.
Heidelberg United 0 – 1 Dandenong Thunder (Mazis 13’)
GK – 1 Chris Theodoridis
4 – Danny Dixon (13 – Maxsim Ilic 68’)
5 – Ajdin Fetahagic
6 – Anthony Lesiotis
9 – Adrian Zahra
11 – Jaime Wilson (21 – Bilal Habib 61’)
14 – Kaine Sheppard
17 – Josh Pin
18 – Anthony Theodoropoulos (10 – Dom Falla 68’)
19 – Sean Ellis (8 – Eoin Ashton 45 +3’)
23 – Shigeto Masuda
Subs not used:
GK – 25 – Hayden Browne
39 – Nicholas Pappas