Brisbane Roar have provided a glimpse of life without Besart Berisha by downing Wellington Phoenix 2-1 at home.
A glimpse of life after Besart Berisha was provided by the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night – and coach Mike Mulvey liked what he saw.
A fist-pumping Mulvey could not hide his excitement as he launched into a delirious sideline celebration after an 87th-minute wonder goal by Luke Brattan sealed a gutsy 2-1 comeback win over Wellington for the A-League ladder leaders.
The Roar came back from the brink against form outfit Wellington as Besart watched on from the sidelines just days after revealing he would snap up a lucrative two-year deal with Melbourne Victory at season’s end.
The stage was set for a timely dress rehearsal without their prized striker after Berisha was ruled out of the Wellington clash due to a last-round red card.
And at first, it appeared the Roar would struggle without their talisman.
Ninth-placed Wellington – who had registered four wins and a draw in their past five games – set up a maiden win at Suncorp Stadium when a 36th-minute tap-in by Stein Huysegems gave them a well-deserved halftime lead.
However, the Roar emerged a different side in the second half and debutant Devante Clut ensured a dream A-League introduction when he fed off Henrique before launching a wonderful 50th-minute strike to lock up the scores.
But nothing could prepare the crowd for Brattan’s remarkable 30-metre effort that iced the result.
It was a courageous effort after the Roar looked on track to lose their third straight home match when they took the field without Socceroos Matt McKay (leg) and Ivan Franjic (stomach) as well as Irish import Liam Miller (hamstring) and Berisha.
If the 13,889-strong Roar faithful were filthy about Berisha’s defection, it wasn’t evident in the stands with no derogatory banners or chants directed at the Albanian international.
And no one could argue with Roar coach Mike Mulvey’s decision to opt for German maestro Thomas Broich as their international marquee player after his sublime display on Friday night.
Wellington dominated the first half and deserved to draw first blood when Huysegems tapped in Jeremy Brockie’s cross.
Something had to give after Vince Lia (11th minute), Jason Hicks (27th) and Brockie (32nd) had forced Roar keeper Michael Theo into desperate saves.
“My adrenaline is still going from that second half,” Mulvey gushed after the Roar went eight points clear on top of the ladder.
“Wellington are top-four material and we have now beaten them three times this season.
“That’s the magnitude of this result.
“But I loved that second half – that’s what football is about.”
Phoenix mentor Ernie Merrick dipped his hat to Brattan’s effort which appeared to take a deflection off Wellington’s Vince Lia but believed his team simply wilted in the humid conditions.
“The boys are gutted by the result but I was impressed by our performance,” he said.
“The heat and humidity took its toll. It was a killer.”