Was it the way to end a Grand Final? Maybe not, but one thing you can’t deny is that football once again took drama to another level.
Action? Doesn-t even cover it. Drama. Understatement of the year. The 2012 Hyundai A-League Grand Final left nothing on the pitch but some fans will question whether it should have ended that way.
First of all, let-s say huge congratulations to Brisbane Roar and Ange Postecoglou, the competition-s first back-to-back Grand Final winners. To say Roar and Postecoglou have set the bar high for the rest of the competition doesn-t quite do any of their work justice.
Regardless of the controversy in this game, it-s hard to argue that Brisbane don-t deserve their triumph.
The Roar have been the best team in the league for two seasons, as their philosophy, style, work ethic and commitment have set them apart from their contemporaries.
But on the night, they weren-t quite themselves. Was it the pitch, torn up by having to be shared with other codes? Was it the midweek AFC Champions League game that left them with heavy legs. Was it the pressure and expectation of another grand final?
Or was it the tactics, commitment and work ethic of an excellent Perth Glory side, who worked their socks off to turn their season around? The change in fortunes for Glory and Ian Ferguson has to be one of the stories of the season.
At Christmas they were on the brink of disaster with Fergie looking certain to get the chop from owner Tony Sage. Four months later, they are 10 minutes from winning the Grand Final.
Their form has been excellent, their self-belief and confidence carrying them through so many moments where previously they would have capitulated.
But it wasn-t enough on the night.
Ferguson set his team up perfectly. The defence pushed up and the midfield stayed compact to deny Brisbane the space to play the ball between the lines. Jacob Burns was immense in the centre of the park, Shane Smeltz played for 70-odd minutes with a smashed nose and mouth, thanks to a Matt Smith elbow, and Josh Risdon was sublime, the teenager pushed Thomas Broich all the way.
That first scrambled goal wasn-t the sexiest you-ll ever see but Perth deserved it; their structure and work ethic confounded Brisbane in a game they were supposed to dominate.
But credit to Brisbane Roar, they never gave up and never stopped trying. Broich supplied – as always – and Berisha finished – as always – for their equaliser. They kept up the pressure and then came the moment fans will debate for years to come.
Was it a penalty? At first glance, yes. On second viewing, no. On third, fourth, fifth viewing… It does look like Liam Miller clipped Berisha-s standing leg, causing him to lose his balance and air-swing at a ball he probably otherwise would have buried.
But was there any real contact or did Berisha go down to easily? And what about the way he peeled away in delight after Jarred Gillett blew his whistle, as though he had already scored the winner?
Berisha has been a revelation this season, top-scorer in the league and bags of personality the league should be thankful for. But something about that celebration left a bad taste in the mouth – and the Glory fans at the game made their feelings clear.
What a brave call by Gillett. I can-t remember any final that was decided by a penalty kick in almost the last minute of the game. It-s hard to argue that the referee didn-t decide who would win this year-s Grand Final.
But that-s his job and he made his call decisively. Replays showed he might have even made the right one, despite everyone else thinking otherwise.
But it was a penalty. And Berisha did bury it. And Brisbane did win the Grand Final in the most dramatic fashion possible. Anyone who thought last season-s comeback against Central Coast must be shaking their head in wonderment.
Only football can deliver that kind of drama. Only football can completely turn on its head in the blink of an eye or the swing of a foot. Just when you think it-s over – “They can-t do it again, can they?” – football shows you yet again that, regardless of the time, anything can happen. Never give up, never give in, never stop fighting.
Perth Glory didn-t. But neither did Brisbane Roar and fate was wearing orange again. Football doesn-t always deliver justice. It just delivers. And, boy, did this Grand Final deliver.