COMETH the hour, cometh the man.
Besart Berisha has had his fair share of critics this season.
The Melbourne Victory marksman has lost some pace, and isn’t as clinical as he once was.
But when push comes to shove, there’s no doubt Berisha steps up.
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And Victory’s elimination final was no exception.
With the game on the line at 1-1, Kosta Barbarouses floated a ball Berisha’s way.
The striker outmuscled Jordan Elsey, got into position and somehow connected with an overhead kick that saw the ball nestle in the bottom left corner in the 89th minute.
It was simply brilliant. It handed the Victory a 2-1 lead. It was also his eighth goal in as many A-League finals.
“What a finish from Besart Berisha, absolutely extraordinary. Strength, technique, balance.,” former Socceroo Robbie Slater said on Fox Sports.
“Barbarouses’ second assist, floats it in – Elsey can’t do anything.
“But the strength … the strength to hold him off and still that athletic ability, to pull something (like) that out of his locker – he’s got pretty much every finish in his locker but that is one for the ages.”
Berisha had been just minutes away from being substituted, with Kenny Athiu replacing him shortly after the goal.
But the game was well and truly won, with Adelaide deflated and unable to mount a late comeback.
“What athleticism, what predatory powers Besart Berisha has,” Fox Sports commentator Simon Hill said.
“And just when they needed it most after a season in which he’s been written off in some quarters, he comes up with something simply spectacular.”
Slater said there were few players who could produce a moment as brilliant as Berisha’s.
“The bar is set so high for him and we know he’s getting on and he doens’t have everything he used to have … but wow he’s still got a lot of offer – name another player who pulls that out of his locker at that time of the match,” he said.
Berisha was emotional after the match, but emphasised the big moments were what he’d been brought to the club for.
“I’m very happy with that. This is why Victory brought me here,” he said on Fox Sports.
“I want to be there for the team, for the club, I want to make sure I score the goals, especially in the tough moments like this, when we go down 1-0.
“It’s so important for this club to be in the finals and this is why I’m here and I’m so happy that every game I can prove that.”
Berisha said he thrived on the pressure of finals football.
“I love these kinds of games. I’m not afraid about these games, I go very positive in these games,” Berisha said.
“I love these games, this is why I play this game and I take nothing for granted. If I had a chance to play a final, I’ll do everything to win.”
But Berisha’s former teammate Archie Thompson probably summed it up best.
“He rewrites history Bes,” Thompson said on Fox Sports.
“He just pops up at the right time.”
HOW VICTORY TURNED THINGS AROUND
ADELAIDE United had a plan.
And for 63 minutes, they all but executed it to perfection.
Marco Kurz’s side clearly intended to limit Melbourne Victory’s attack, stifling their possession through the midfield.
And for much of the game, it worked.
James Troisi struggled for opportunities in between the midfield and attack, with Isaias leading a firm defensive line.
A frustrated Victory largely failed to create chances in a cagey first half, with both Leroy George and Kosta Barbarouses limited.
“Adelaide have come with a game plan to sit off them and not allow them to play and make runs in behind,” Thompson said at half-time.
“No combination – I think Isaias is really screening that two centre backs really well and to not let Troisi get into any kind of space between the two lines.
“And that’s where you want a player like Troisi in the No.10 position to be able to be feeding off Besart and doing the 1-2 combinations with Leroy and Kosta.
“But they haven’t been able to do it, Adelaide have done it really well.”
Adelaide’s compact defence continued early in the second half, while they looked to catch Victory on the break.
It paid off big-time in the 57th minute.
Nikola Mileusnic beat the Victory defence for pace on a quick free kick, before chipping Lawrence Thomas to give Adelaide the lead over Melbourne Victory.
But Adelaide’s lead would last just six minutes.
Kosta Barbarouses went on a brilliant run into the 18-yard box, before cutting back a cross for Leroy George to head home.
“For once Barbarouses got a bit of space and they did get that overload just for a second and they did use it well – Deng to Barbarouses, twists and turns, goes outside a static Marrone,” Slater said.
“It’s a really good header from Leroy George who punches it home – a thumping header.”
From there, Victory had the chance to make the game their own.
And in the 89th minute, Berisha did just that.
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