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Brisbane Roar claim victory over Central Coast Mariners with late Besart Berisha strike

Brisbane Roar 2 Central Coast Mariners 1

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Roar comeback sinks Mariners

An early penalty sees the Central Coast Mariners take the lead, but a determined Brisbane Roar fight back to score two goals and the win at Suncorp Stadium.

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The A-League's greatest love affair continues, for this season at least.

Besart Berisha may have filed for divorce but until he packs his bags and shacks up with the Melbourne mistress, the striker and his legion of orange-clad fans remain truly, deeply and madly devoted.

So often, the Albanian has swept supporters off their feet with late heroics. He did it again on Sunday, scoring in a dramatic and emotional final minute to give the Roar a 2-1 victory over the Mariners, sending Brisbane seven points clear on top of the league.

Crowd pleaser: The Roar's Henrique levelled the score with a classy strike in the second half.

Crowd pleaser: The Roar's Henrique levelled the score with a classy strike in the second half. Photo: Getty Images

Berisha ran to the corner post and celebrated as if he'd won the grand final... again. The stands stood in sweet reply, proving the flame continues to burn between a striker despised by most rivals but still revered by the Roar fans, who have chosen to remain faithful to the last.

Surely Berisha must have wondered how he would be received in his first home appearance since announcing he would play for Melbourne Victory from next season. As it transpired, there wasn't a boo to be heard from the 16,000-strong crowd.

The uncertainty may have stifled his start as he came up with an air swing in front of an open net in the 35th minute. Moments later, Mile Sterjovski was felled by Michael Theo in the Roar box, with the penalty putting the visitors up 1-0.

Sending a message: Besart Berisha of the Roar celebrates his match-winning goal.

Sending a message: Besart Berisha of the Roar celebrates his match-winning goal. Photo: Getty Images

The Roar poured on the pressure in the second half before typically aggressive changes from Mike Mulvey saw Henrique (66th minute) equalise, then Berisha (90th minute) finish the job. All was forgiven as Brisbane's march towards the Premiers Plate gained further momentum.

The only sound louder than Brisbane fans celebrating was Victory fans frantically tweeting their delight in their star signing for next season. They understand he's a genuine match-winner, the like that are few and far between in this league.

Mulvey said Berisha had a spring in his step during the week now the decision had been made public. And the emotions he poured out after stabbing the winner past Liam Reddy showed his vow to leave nothing in the tank for the Roar was anything but lip service.

"He wanted to give Brisbane everything today. That goal means the world to him, because he feeds off that. I knew he was focused, I knew he was ready. I didn't need to say anything to him," Mulvey said.

"I'm delighted for him. He's had a very tough couple of weeks and he's had to make a very difficult decision based on economics. I knew during the week that he was in a happier place, because he was training very well.

"He won us the game today. It's a team game but someone still has to stick the ball in the back of the net. I'm very pleased for him."

Berisha has always had a flair for the dramatic and continued that form against a side notoriously difficult to break down. They fell at the death on Sunday but the third-placed Mariners remain a key player in the A-League season.

It took long stretches of quality football from Brisbane, with the superb Thomas Broich pulling all of the strings, before the goals started to flow. Berisha's final flourish was down to the wire but not completely surprising, given Brisbane's control of the contest.

"You might think it's good fortune scoring late goals. But we were building, building, moved some players around and they responded," Mulvey said.

"We weren't moving the ball quickly enough [in the first half] and allowing them to get compact. We talked about switching and playing some diagonals. We looked more fluent and it just kept building until we got the goals."

The Roar now head to Sydney on Friday night to play the second-placed Wanderers. A result there would give Brisbane a 10-point lead on top of the ladder, with six of their remaining nine games after that at home.

Mulvey also addressed speculation that former Roar man Steven Lustica could be at the club as early as next week, with speculation rife he could be released by Adelaide within days.

He said the midfielder was approached but was unaware of the latest developments at his current club.

"We did target Steven for next season. That's exactly where it stands. What you've just told me is news to me. We did approach Steven at the right time but we definitely targeted him for next season," Mulvey said.

BRISBANE ROAR 2 ( Henrique 66m, Besart Berisha 90m) bt CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 1 (Mile Sterjovski 36m pen) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 16,078. Referee: Strebre Delovski.

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