Melbourne Heart has managed an entertaining 1-1 draw against reigning champions Brisbane Roar, after a first half goal from Jonaton Germano was cancelled out by controversial striker Besart Berisha’s header in the second half.
In what was a tumultuous week for the Albanian, Berisha was lucky to play in the match after a loophole in FFA regulations allowed him to lineup, despite being banned for one game after the now infamous incident involving him and Pascal Bosschaart last week.
John van’t Schip decided to tinker with his preferred formation for this match, going with a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield for the first time this season. His gamble seemed to have paid off with a highly entertaining and attacking performance in the opening 45 minutes.
However it was Brisbane who looked the most dangerous in the first 10 minutes. Thomas Broich, arguably the greatest player the A-League has seen, looked as dangerous as ever and set up two chances in the opening minutes. Broich had a shot blocked by Brendan Hamill, before setting up Massimo Murducco who bent his shot wide around the post.
It was then Melbourne Heart who went on the attack, with Alex Terra continuing his good form of late. Terra rounded Roar keeper Michael Theoklitos, however the angle he created was too narrow to shoot and with no one backing him up in the penalty box, his ball was cleared easily by the Brisbane defence.
The Brazilian was at it again in the 24th minute, guiding the ball just wide of goal after some good buildup work by man-of-the-match, Aziz Behich, on the left flank.
Those two combined again in the 30th minute for Heart’s opener. Behich nutmegged Berisha, before crossing the ball to the far post where Terra attempted a spectacular bicycle kick. His effort cannoned off Mohamed Adnan and fell to Jonaton Germano who was able to easily head the ball home.
Germano has now scored in both games between the two clubs this year, after he memorably produced a Santa hat when he scored in Brisbane in December.
The goal seemed to galvanise Brisbane who then pressed hard for an equalizer before half time. Issey Nakijima-Farran shot wide, before Broich’s pass was handled by Germano and a penalty was awarded.
Berisha stepped up to take it, hoping to make positive headlines in a week where most of them condemned him. However much to the delight of Heart fans, his shot went harmlessly flying over the cross bar.
Broich then missed a great chance to level things up right before half time, when his powerful shot forced a great save from Clint Bolton.
Brisbane brought Henrique into the attack for the second half and the little Brazilian looked lively early.
Heart then came close to making it 2-0, after Germano’s shot was pushed onto the post by Theoklitos. Eli Babalj then had two chances to add to the score line; however both were dealt with comfortably by Theoklitos.
The introduction of James Meyer gave Brisbane even more attacking power, and he was involved with the equalizer in the 69th minute.
His ball allowed Ivan Franjic to run down the right hand side of the pitch and whip the ball in to the centre. The ball was flicked up by Mitch Nicholls and Besart Berisha was able to head home.
Heart were desperate for a winner, and came close after a brilliant run from Behich resulted in his deflected shot just missing and going behind for a corner. Heart then had a very strong penalty appeal turned down after Adnan appeared to have handled the ball.
Despite this incident, and his involvement in the opening goal, Adnan had a terrific game and was a rock in Brisbane’s defence.
In the end, a 1-1 draw seemed a fair outcome for both teams.
Brisbane consolidated their second place position, whilst Heart slipped back to fourth behind Wellington.
Melbourne Heart: 1 (Germano 31’)
Brisbane Roar: 1 (Berisha 69’)
Crowd: 7118 at AAMI Park