Controversy mars Berisha-inspired Brisbane victory

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Brisbane Roar escaped a frantic final five minutes riddled with controversy to down Melbourne Victory and book a home Grand Final thanks to Besart Berisha’s second-half strike.


Referee Strebre Delovski denied Melboune what seemed to be a clear-cut penalty in stoppage time in front of a close to 30,000 strong crowd at Suncorp Stadium in Sunday’s second semi-final.

The 1-0 result saw Brisbane book its third home Grand Final in four years, where they will host Western Sydney Wanderers next Sunday afternoon.

The defeat for Victory was reminiscent of their 0-1 loss to Central Coast at the same stage last year, although the circumstances surrounding the penalty shout – where the two captains came together as Matt Smith challenged Mark Milligan – incensed coach Kevin Muscat.

“The one decision that had to be right tonight was missed,” Muscat said.

“It’s beyond belief how that can be missed.

“From where I was it looked like he (Delovski) put the whistle to his mouth and basically bottled it.

“Big crowd, home team and he bottled it.”

A little over 30 minutes earlier, Besart Berisha had sent the orange army into furor as he set off on a solo run that ended with a trademark clinical finish against his future employers.

Released by an opportune pass from Matt McKay, Berisha dribbled 25 metres towards goal, keeping Nick Ansell guessing before beating Nathan Coe at his near post.

His celebration was no more than reserved, indicating his respect for the blue and white jersey he will be donning as of next season.

It was a goal Brisbane deserved on the balance of play at the time – the home side came out invigorated in the second period after a timid first half showing from both sides.

Both midfields were efficient in executing their strategy – albeit carrying out differing tasks.

Roar’s trio of Thomas Broich, Matt McKay and Luke Brattan were instrumental in Brisbane’s patient and visually pleasing build-up play, while Victory’s Mark Milligan and Leigh Broxham stood solid in front of their back four to shutout their opponents.

Yet Melbourne looked incapable of creating a clear cut chance to get back in the game after conceding – fatigue clearly evident after travelling to South Korea for an AFC Champions League fixture in midweek.

The four minutes of stoppage time that concluded the match were one of the most gripping ever witnessed in an A-League showdown.

A desperate Victory poured men forward with nothing to lose, commencing a dramatic sequence of play with an Archie Thompson shot from close range that was palmed away by Michael Theo.

The rebound broke for Milligan who went tumbling under Matt Smith’s challenge, but to no reaction from the referee.

Archie Thompson deflected the ball goal-ward from the resulting corner, only for Matt McKay to head it off the line and into Theo’s thankful grasp.

Moments later Broich needlessly lost possession in the middle of the park and allowed the visitors to find in-form James Troisi in the box, whose shot was again well saved by Theo.

It was an inspiring few moments for the Brisbane custodian, who will be making his fifth Grand Final appearance next week. He has never lost.

Nonetheless, it could have been a different outcome had Melbourne capitalised on their late flurry at a time when Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey believed his team were their own worst enemy.

“We had more than enough chances to not even be worried in the last ten minutes,” Mulvey said.

“We were the architects of our own situation in the last ten minutes and what caused it was we didn’t get the second goal.

“We turned the ball over and got into situations where we were having too many touches in the wrong areas.

“Victory were very tired by that stage and we helped them along by some poor decision making.

 “We were looking for a goal instead of maybe keeping possession, but I’m not going to blame the lads because that’s my mantra – I want to keep looking for that second goal.”

The intensity of the match was no less than Mulvey expected, but he can now look forward to his debut Grand Final as an A-League coach.

“You got what you expected from a semi-final tonight – two extremely committed teams who went for the jugular.

“A week off is difficult, but we will be better because of it in seven days time.

“This week is all about recovery and maintenance.

“What a great feeling to win in front of thirty thousand home fans – it’s just brilliant and I can’t wait until next Sunday.”

Mulvey’s counterpart Kevin Muscat was seen clearly remonstrating with referee Strebre Delovski post-match and his assessment of the official’s performance was frank.

“At that point in time I don’t expect him to say anything,” Muscat said.

“He told Mark Milligan he didn’t think there was any contact.

“He’s probably not paid to think – he’s paid to get decisions right.”

Muscat was left fuming at the referee’s decision to wave away the late penalty and called for Football Federation Australia to take action.

“It’s staggering really at this level to be so distanced from the game and to get such a big decision wrong – we really have to analyse and the FFA should really look into how we get this better,” Muscat said.

“From my perspective the referees need to be full-time if we’re going to be taken seriously.

“I haven’t got any words for the players at this point in time because they’ve given absolutely everything for this football club and unfortunately the result was taken out of their hands by an official’s decision.

“He’ll look back and he’ll apologise but that’s no consolation to the boys.”

It adds misery to a bitter week for the Victory, who were controversially denied a penalty during their match against Jeonbuk Huyndai Motors in the Asian Champions League that could have granted them passage to the Round of 16.

“Going away to Korea and thinking to yourself ‘I don’t think I’ll go through my career with a clearer penalty shout that’s not given’ and the official tonight has proved me wrong,” Muscat said.

 “It’s hard to take because the players have put in an extreme amount over the last six to seven weeks and I couldn’t be any prouder and for all that in the space of five days for an official to dictate the result of the game is embarrassing.

“At this point in time I’m so emotionally attached to what’s just gone on – it’s difficult to start reviewing the season.

“One thing’s for sure – we’re two stone-wall penalties away from a Grand Final and a Round of 16.”

Muscat and the Victory will long be thinking how their season ended so prematurely within the space of a few days.

As for Brisbane, the city will gear up for Orange Sunday Episode III, this time against the Western Sydney Wanderers.

If it is anything like the past two editions – where Brisbane dramatically triumphed late on against Central Coast and Perth – A-League fans will be treated to yet another classic between the league’s most consistent sides this season.

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEO (GK), 2. Matthew SMITH (C), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 7. Besart BERISHA, 11. Liam MILLER (8. Steven LUSTICA 90’), 13. Jade NORTH, 17. Matthew McKAY, 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Dimitri PETRATOS (10. HENRIQUE 79’)

Melbourne Victory: 1. Nathan COE (GK), 2. Pablo CONTRERAS (13. Andrew NABBOUT 83’), 3. Adama Traore, 4. Nicholas ANSELL, 5. Mark MILLIGAN (C), 6. Leigh BROXHAM (16. Rashid MAHAZI 69’), 7. Guilherme FINKLER, 8. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 14. James TROISI, 25. Jason GERIA

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