Berisha cops two games for ref shove
BESART Berisha has been banned for two matches for his shove on a fourth official last weekend.
But the Melbourne Victory striker escaped would could have been a far more severe punishment after facing a near two-hour tribunal hearing in Sydney on Thursday night.
Berisha, who made contact with Daniel Elder late in the first half of last Friday's spiteful clash with Adelaide, was found guilty of "unsporting conduct toward a match official" by Football Federation Australia's Disciplinary and Ethics Committee.
He copped a four-game ban in total, but two of those matches have been suspended for the remainder of the season.
He will miss games against Central Coast (away) on Sunday and Western Sydney at Etihad Stadium.
The blow is compounded by the fact that fellow attackers James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses will also miss the Wanderers game because of international duty, leaving Victory significantly undermanned in the front third of the pitch on Melbourne Cup eve.
"Firstly, I would like to apologise for my actions in Adelaide. It is never OK to touch a match official and for doing so, I am sorry," Berisha said.
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"I did not mean any harm and I'm thankful to have received a fair hearing. My focus now is training hard and preparing for my return."
The 32-year-old fronted the tribunal in person, with Victory's legal team, its chief executive Ian Robson and football manager Paul Trimboli also in attendance.
Berisha's contrition, and the fact the Victory party made the effort to attend the hearing in person, was noted by the three-man committee of John Marshall, Lachlan Gyles and David Barrett.
Berisha also received glowing character references from coach Kevin Muscat, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou and Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro.
The charge Berisha was found guilty of usually carries a minimum four-game suspension.
Victory tried to have the charge downgraded, which, if successful, would have given the panel scope to hand out a single-match ban.
It was unsuccessful in having the charge downgraded, but as it was the committee saw fit to use its discretion to suspend half of the ban.
Having made a challenge on United defender Jordan Elsey, Elder intervened as players from the two teams came together.
With a hand on Berisha's back, Elder guided Berisha away from the altercation, with Berisha then pushing the fourth official's hands away after several seconds of contact.
Referee Shaun Evans, following consultation with Elder, gave Berisha a yellow card on the night.
But that card was for the tackle on Elsey, not for the shove on Elder, which left Berisha open to further Match Review Panel punishment.
That extra ban will only be triggered if Berisha is found guilty of another offence involving an official, but not an offence for, for instance, a bad tackle.
Berisha's suspension leaves Victory with just one recognised striker, teenager Pierce Waring, who has yet to make his senior Victory debut.
Victory recruited Heidelberg star Kenny Athiu earlier this month, but he has been eased in to A-League life having just come off an arduous National Premier League Victoria season.