Brisbane Roar has created football history by becoming the first Hyundai A-League side to successfully defend the Championship, courtesy of a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Perth Glory at Suncorp Stadium.
In a match filled with theatre and drama - reminiscent of last season’s decider - Besart Berisha proved the difference with two goals to secure the back-to-back Championship success.
The match’s first bit of drama came early with a lengthy delay following a collision between Perth’s Shane Smeltz and Roar captain Matt Smith which saw the Kiwi striker down for almost four minutes before he emerged from the surface sporting a bandage around the middle of his face.
Brisbane were slowly building their usual passing game as the Glory tried to restrict their space in the middle and it was with their possession that they created the best chances of the first half.
Mitch Nichols hit the ball straight at Danny Vukovic before Ivan Franjic forced a diving, fingertip save from the Perth custodian while Hyundai A-League Golden Boot winner Besart Berisha scuffed the ground when a golden chance fell to him in the 40th minute.
The Roar were made to wait for their opponents to appear after the break but wasted no time in testing Vukovic yet again.
Hyundai A-League Player of the Year Thomas Broich made room for himself down the left wing and eased his way past two Perth defenders before unleashing a thunderbolt that stung the palms of the Glory shotstopper.
As the 50, 334 fans around Suncorp Stadium attempted to regain their breath, the Glory went on the counter attack and after Billy Mehmet broke through the midfield and played in Travis Dodd, a loose ball in the six yard box took a touch off Franjic and bounced awkwardly into the back of the net.
Despite conceding, Brisbane continued to heap pressure on the opposition defence and in similar circumstances to last year’s Grand Final found their way back into the contest with just six minutes left to play.
Broich delivered a perfect cross into the area and Berisha timed his jump over Glory defender Steve Pantaledis to a tee to connect his head with the ball and send the orange-clad crowd into raptures.
The drama continued as the match ticked into stoppage time with Dean Heffernan shown a second yellow card and sent to the dressing room.
As if that wasn’t enough, with only seconds remaining Berisha won a penalty following a challenge in the box from the Perth defence.
The Albanian striker stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted home to send the majority of the crowd into delirium as the Championship trophy was confirmed as staying in the Queensland capital for another year.
In the aftermath of the amazing finish, Head Coach Ange Postecoglou said he was extremely proud of the way his side continued to battle right to the end of the match, a trait he said had seen them rewarded with the second Championship.
“From my point of view, regardless of what the headlines are, as I sit here we deserve to be Champions,” Postecoglou said.
“As a team we’ve always been the ones to try and take the initiative.
“I’ve always believed that if you do that, you’ll be rewarded more often than not.
“The number of occasions we’ve won games late over the past two years is not a fluke, it’s not luck.
“It’s us trying to initiate the play and having a real belief in what we do.
“In the big moments over the past couple of years we’ve been rewarded for doing that and tonight was one of those occasions.”
Hyundai A-League Grand Final
Brisbane Roar (Besart Berisha 84, 90+4)
Perth Glory (OG Ivan Franjic 51’)
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Crowd: 50, 334
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU (18. Luke BRATTAN 65’), 7. Besart BERISHA, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (24. Nick FITZGERALD 65’), 10. HENRIQUE (21. James MEYER 74’), 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 22. Thomas BROICH
Substitutes not used: 4. Matt JURMAN, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk)
Yellow cards: Ivan FRANJIC 89’
Perth Glory: 1. Daniel VUKOVIC (gk), 3. Seb VAN DEN BRINK, 4. Billy MEHMET, 5. Steve PANTALEDIS, 7. Jacob BURNS (c), 9. Shane SMELTZ (14. Steven McGARRY 80’), 10. Liam MILLER, 13. Travis DODD 12. Scott NEVILLE 76’), 17. Todd HOWARTH, 19. Joshua RISDON, 35. Dean HEFFERNAN
Substitutes not used: 2. Josh MITCHELL, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 27. ANDREZINHO
Yellow cards: Liam MILLER 10’, Jacob BURNS 49’, Dean HEFFERNAN 56’, 90+1’, Danny VUKOVIC 90+2’, Billy MEHMET 90+4
Red cards: Dean HEFFERNAN 90+1