Avondale have continued their unbeaten start to the season after holding on for a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Heidelberg United at the Olympic Village on Saturday night.
There was plenty of hype ahead of the top-of-the-table clash, with a win to either side potentially shaping the ladder for the rest of the season. An Avondale win would open up a nine-point gap, while a victory for Heidelberg would reduce it to just three points.
After a fast-paced start to the game it was Stefan Valentini who landed the first blow for Avondale mid-way through the first half. The speedster pounced on a sloppy back-pass before dribbling around the Heidelberg keeper and rolling the ball home into an empty net.
Shortly after Joey Katebian had a chance to double the Avengers’ lead, but his header from a dangerous cross was straight at the keeper.
Despite being pushed to extra time during their mid-week FFA Cup game, Heidelberg slowly started to gain ascendancy later in the half. Avondale’s midfield and defence held strong, limiting chances for the Bergers, but the home side levelled the score right before the half time whistle.
Goalkeeper Chris Oldfield made a superb save to keep out a free kick, but the rebound fell straight to a United player who cut the ball back across goal before it was knocked into the back of the net.
Heidelberg kept the pressure up after the break as they pushed hard for a winner against a resilient Avondale defence.
Brandon Lundy was forced to scoop a ball away from the goal line after a scramble in the penalty area while Oldfield made some crucial punches to clear away dangerous crosses.
While Heidelberg were starting to control possession, Avondale were looking dangerous on the counterattack. After a fast break Tasuku Sekiya came within inches of giving his side the lead but his curling effort thundered into the crossbar.
Still though, it was United who had the bulk of the possession and the main scoring chances. Sean Ellis looked to have given the home side the lead after volleying the ball home with five minutes to play, only to have his effort ruled out by the linesman’s offside flag.
Oldfield them made another spectacular save right on the 90-minute mark, diving at full-stretch to tip a goal-bound shot wide of the post. Sekiya had a late chance deep into stoppage time to steal a win for Avondale, his shot had the keeper troubled but couldn’t get past a defender who was able to clear it away off the line.
The draw secured a crucial point for Avondale, the result maintains the Azzuri’s six-point advantage over second-placed Heidelberg with one game to go before the midpoint of the season.
Avondale will face another tough test this weekend when they face off against the third-placed Bentleigh Greens.
By Bransen Gibson