BESART BERISHA might have landed the equaliser that led to Brisbane Roar's comeback in last night's A-League grand final but the player allegedly told Perth Glory captain Jacob Burns that the later penalty which decided the match shouldn't have been awarded.
Replays showed that Berisha took an air swing as he was trying to shoot on goal, only to lose his balance and fall over without making any contact with a Perth defender, though referee Jarred Gillett still pointed to the spot.
Adding an extra layer of controversy to the decision is that Gillett's girlfriend works in Brisbane's media department, which quickly made its way onto social media last night.
Burns, who won the Joe Marston Medal after it was incorrectly awarded to Thomas Broich after a miscommunication, said Berisha told him moments after he went down that it was a bad decision.
''I looked at him, I said 'That's not a penalty'. He just shrugged and said 'That's football,''' Burns said. ''I took that to be an admission it wasn't a penalty.''
Perth coach Ian Ferguson tried not to focus on the incident in his speech but couldn't help feel that his side had been hard done by.
''I've not seen it back but I thought it was an air swing and that it wasn't a penalty,'' Ferguson said. ''From where I was sitting, I thought it [wasn't] … and then he's given a penalty. There's not too much you can do or take back time. That's what's happened and we've lost the grand final.''
Ferguson admitted nothing could be done and it was just a ''mistake'', though he conceded that Dean Heffernan being sent off in injury time might have helped Brisbane push forward in the final minutes.
''What do you want to do? Have a rematch?'' he joked. ''The assistant is standing in the same place that I'm standing, so if he can see and interfere [he should have]. I believe if he's seen what I've seen, a penalty wouldn't have been given.''
The recipient of the good fortune, Roar coach Ange Postecoglou, said his side deserved the win.
''You can look at it that way [that my side was undeserving] but I don't,'' he said. ''That's what grand finals are about. They're all moments and if anyone thinks we're undeserving, I've got an issue with that because I think we deserve to be champions. The rest is just good theatre.
''Some people will feel that Perth were hard done by but it was 1-1 at the time. It's not like we stole the championship from them. I think we deserved our equaliser and then [it would have been] 30 minutes of extra time with 10 men to play against.''
However, Berisha defended his decision to go to ground, saying just after the match that the penalty was the correct decision. ''It was a touch and in the end I think it was a correct call from Jarred,'' he told FoxSports.
''Sometimes it's like this. I make the penalty and we win.''
While controversy raged over whether the penalty should have been given, one indisputable blunder was the awarding of the Joe Marston Medal to Broich. A panel of nine media members voted Burns as the player of the match but the decision was miscommunicated to the event organisers, leaving Broich to give a speech for a medal he wasn't meant to receive. Asked if he thought he had been the best player on the ground, Broich replied: ''You've watched me play over the last two years now. I've decided two grand finals and you're still asking me that question, whether I deserved it or not. I don't want to answer that question.''
A-League head Lyall Gorman had a list of people to soothe. ''We apologise to Brisbane Roar, Thomas Broich, Perth Glory and, most of all, to Jacob Burns,'' he said. Postecoglou said mishandling of the award was a sour way to end the night. ''It's disappointing because it's not fair on Jacob Burns, it's not fair on Thomas Broich. It's not fair on us, the opposition or the 50,000 people who turned up. You shouldn't get that wrong … ''
Postecoglou didn't expand on rumours he will sign with Melbourne Victory but did concede he might be looking for something new. ''Every year I've learnt something, every year I've looked for a new challenge and … I'll see what my next challenge is,'' he said.
BRISBANE ROAR 2 (Besart Berisha 84m, 90+7m pen) bt PERTH GLORY 1 (Ivan Franjic 51m og) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 50,334. Referee: Jarred Gillett.