Besart Berisha looked like he'd never been gone. The reality is that the diminutive striker made his much anticipated return from a hamstring just in time for the top of the table clash between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers. He put on a terrific show over the game's first quarter hour with the opening goal as the crown of his performance as the Roar held off the Wanderers 3-1 in front of 19,066 at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
There were questions ahead of the game as to the extent of Berisha's recovery and fitness. He answered them all by abusing Matthew Spiranovic and nearly scoring in the first minute of the primetime, free-to-air broadcast. Four minutes later, a brilliant individual effort and a bit of luck led to one of the A-League's more memorable goals in this young season. Fifteen minutes later, Berisha was again involved, this time not on his own but as part of an attacking sequence involving Matt McKay, Henrique and finally Ivan Franjic, who scored a wonderful goal of his own.
Western Sydney did more than get back into the game, wresting back control after allowing a goal (let alone two) within twenty minutes for the first time in the club's history. Brendon Santalab was the point man on several strong combinations but the visitors' goal came from yet another Brisbane mistake at the back. Jade North's poor pass out of defense did not get further than Mark Bridge, who quickly nudged the ball over to Santalab, whose cool finish up and over Michael Theo got the Wanderers onto the scoreboard after a dominant ten minutes.
The game finally settled into more of a rhythm just before half-time, though Western Sydney lost Shinji Ono to an injury. In the second half, Berisha lasted just 18 minutes before his removal in favor of Kwame Yeboah. Luke Brattan was responsible for the Roar's best chances in the second half with a free kick slipping just wide and other good looks at Ante Covic's goal. The Wanderers brought on Tahj Minniecon, who along with Shannon Cole provided the visitors' best opportunities at scoring an equalizer. But in the end, Yeboah scored another fine goal late in a game, this time confirming the Roar as the league's top side through the first two months of the season.
Brisbane move top, edging past Western Sydney through seven rounds. The win was the first for the Roar against the Wanderers in five games, including last year's finals. It was also the first defeat suffered by Western Sydney this season. Brisbane will host Perth Glory next on Saturday November 30 while the Wanderers go to New Zealand to try to recover against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday December 1.
Video highlights via the A-League:
BRI Berisha 5'
BRI Franjic (Henrique) 19'
WSW Santalab (Bridge) 28'
BRI Yeboah 91'
Brisbane Roar: Theo; Brown, Smith, North, Hingert (Donachie 84'); McKay, Brattan, Franjic; Broich, Henrique (Petratos 70'), Berisha (Yeboah 63')
Unused subs: Acton, Ferreira
Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic; D'Apuzzo, Topor-Stanley, Spiranovic, Polenz; Mooy, Poljak; Santalab (Heffernan 83'), Ono (Haliti 42'), Cole (Minniecon 69'); Bridge
Unused subs: Tyson, La Rocca