Besart Berisha produced something truly inspirational to lift Melbourne Victory.
Besart Berisha produced something truly inspirational to lift Melbourne Victory.

Berisha magic keeps Victory flying in finals

A STUNNING Besart Berisha bicycle goal with extra-time just minutes away secured a dramatic 2-1 elimination final win for Melbourne Victory.

Staring down the barrel of a shock defeat, counterattacking Adelaide United caught Victory flat-footed via a rocket from Nikola Mileusnic in the second half.

But a Leroy George and Kosta Barbarouses-inspired comeback and Berisha's stunning acrobatics, netted Victory two goals in 30 dramatic final minutes to earn another crack at Sydney FC on Saturday at Allianz Stadium.

Berisha's habit of stepping up on the big occasion is unparalleled in the A-League, yet had things have panned out differently, one of his finest moments may not have eventuated.

The facial expressions says it all.
The facial expressions says it all.

Early in the build up to the goal, scored in the 89th minute, coach Kevin Muscat had signalled to striker Kenny Athiu who was warming up.

By the time Athiu came on, Berisha was able to bask in the glory of the majority of the 15,502 fans giving him a standing ovation as he came off AAMI Park.

Leroy George drew Victory level with a header.
Leroy George drew Victory level with a header.

The importance of the goal can't be understated, as it not only saved Victory the uncertainty of extra-time, but gave Berisha a crucial shot in the arm after a campaign where his form has been questioned.

As he did for Leroy George's equaliser, Barbarouses - who overcame a nervy start - broke down the right to whip in a teasing cross.

The action-packed second stanza was in stark contrast to the first as Adelaide appeared comfortable soaking up pressure and Victory had trouble penetrating, with Spaniard Isaias superbly patrolling midfield.

Besart Berisha gets a hug from Kevin Muscat.
Besart Berisha gets a hug from Kevin Muscat.

In fact, Adelaide produced some of the first half's most dangerous moments, with a desperate Thomas Deng lunge thwarting midfielder Nathan Konstandopoulos.

On the one occasion they were caught out, left-back Ben Garuccio read it superbly and his speed enabled him to close down Leroy George who was released by a stellar Barbarouses pass.

Adelaide keeper Paul Izzo was warned by referee Chris Beath for time-wasting, as the visitors looked content playing for extra-time.

It prompted Muscat to speak to fourth official Shaun Evans before entering the sheds to deliver his halftime verdict.

The verbal between Berisha and Ersan Gulum was entertaining, igniting after Carl Valeri's studs up tackle on the burly Adelaide defender that earnt him a booking.

Nikola Mileusnic gave Adelaide the lead but they couldn’t hold on.
Nikola Mileusnic gave Adelaide the lead but they couldn’t hold on.

Adelaide's chances were on the counter, with lightning Mileusnic almost skinning the Victory defence before Rhys Williams' long limbs came to the rescue.

But the winger's pace eventually did catch out Victory's defence, inexcusably being caught out by a long pass from a quickly taken free-kick by Isaias from well inside his own half.

Mileusnic ghosted in between the back four, whose line was high, and keeper Lawrence Thomas, who perhaps could've emerged earlier, to neatly tuck the ball home.

Victory upped the ante, as Barbarouses slalomed his way down the right before cleverly dinking an angled cross into the box, with George beating Michael Marrone to the ball to head home.

George then took charge of the game and a glorious ball released Berisha, who was denied by Izzo's foot. But that was just the beginning.

 

DAVUTOVIC'S MAN OF THE MATCH

 

Leroy George (Victory)

 

Could've raffled it with Kosta Barbarouses but the Dutchman took destiny into his own hands as Victory was staring defeat, with several actions sparking his team into life.