Instead of jeers, star striker Besart Berisha earned cheers by sealing Brisbane’s 2-1 win over Central Coast in his first match since signing for Victory.
Stage fright is never usually a concern for extrovert Brisbane Roar striker Besart Berisha.
But the Albanian international looked at risk of fluffing his lines before his last gasp scene stealer sealed a 2-1 A-League win over Central Coast at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Berisha always seems to be the centre of attention at the Roar.
However, Berisha looked set to turn heads for all the wrong reasons on Sunday.
He was spared jeers when he ran out in front of a sometimes fickle Roar crowd in his first match since announcing he would take up a lucrative Melbourne Victory deal at season’s end.
Still, they had plenty to complain about as the enigmatic striker looked anxious as he squandered chance after chance.
However, the 16,078-strong crowd only had cheers for Berisha when he scored in the 90th minute to extend Brisbane’s ladder lead over Western Sydney to seven points with a game in hand.
“The best strikers in the world are quiet for 89 minutes then they score a goal,” Roar coach Mike Mulvey said.
“If that is what it takes I will take it every week. He won us the game.
“I think there might have been a bit of nerves for him today.
“But I am delighted for him. He has had a tough couple of weeks. He’s had to make a very difficult decision.
“He wanted to give Brisbane everything today and that goal would have meant the world to him.”
Defending champions Central Coast appeared vulnerable after young defender Trent Sainsbury (Dutch club PEC Zwolle) and veteran striker Daniel McBreen (Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG) this week announced they were moving on.
They joined an exodus that included four players before the season had started, the departure of inspirational coach Graham Arnold to Japan and even a new CEO.
However, the Mariners juggernaut still threatened to rumble on and extend their unbeaten run to six matches.
Central Coast counterpunched after a Berisha air swing and drew first blood through a Mile Sterjovski 37th minute penalty.
And Mulvey’s heart skipped a beat when German import Thomas Broich’s head collided heavily with Mariners keeper Liam Reddy in the 43rd contesting the ball.
But Broich dusted himself off, and the Roar followed with Henrique finally equalising in the 66th minute before Berisha’s late heroics.
“I know a lot of the questions are going to be about Besart and rightly so but this was a team effort today,” Mulvey said.
Meanwhile, Mariners coach Phil Moss dipped his hat to his depleted side that will be bolstered by the arrival of defender Eddy Bosnar and South Korean attacker Kim Seung-yong.
“The mental toughness shown after a week that we have had, I couldn’t be prouder of them,” he said.