Besart Berisha scored goals in each half to propel Western United to a 2-0 win over Perth Glory at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on Wednesday night – a win that thereby puts the expansion side from Wyndham in Melbourne’s outer west into the A-League’s finals series.
Coach Mark Rudan’s club will enter the finals full of energy and form, and qualified with two games to go against Sydney FC on Saturday and a local derby against Melbourne City the following Wednesday.
Berisha – who has now scored 17 goals on the season and three since the A-League’s restart – could not hide his elation afterwards, over Western United taking care of the business to qualify for finals in its opening campaign.
“Who would have thought that we would play finals in our first year? We have a great team and we deserve it. We have worked so hard, for ourselves and for the club, and what a dream story it is,” said Berisha, now on 17 goals for the season.
“We’ve been very focused in every session, and we have worked really hard, getting points here and there. But I want to emphasise – when these players want something, in the way of our play or results, they go out and get it!” he added.
Berisha also paid tribute to his teammates not just for their workman-like efforts on the evening, but also for the season’s overall achievements, and promising the aim of continuing to get results in the A-League’s finals series beginning on August 22.
“I am so happy to be at this club, because we want to try to achieve something. I want to keep going with this club, because I share their hunger and I want success with them,” he said.
“It is very, very important to have this mentality, and how they play,” Berisha added.
But as Western United’s achievement comes as a revelation, Perth Glory’s form – despite holding firm in fifth spot on the ladder after this result – would be quite a concern to coach Tony Popovic. Glory have lost four out of six games since the A-League’s restart, conceding 14 goals in that span while scoring seven.
Even more concerning would be the last two games – being outscored 6-0 in total in consecutive losses to Melbourne Victory and now Western United.
“Hard game for us. We need to find a way to be dangerous, we are so far away from scoring goals,” said Bruno Fornaroli, one of Glory’s key strikers, after the match.
“Now we have ten days to prepare for our first final, and we need to get things right,” Fornaroli added.
Both teams were playing cautiously in the game’s opening 20-odd minutes, in an extended feeling-out process. Perhaps with Glory’s finals place being tenuous at best, and Western United’s position for its finals potential not requiring any ultimate sense of urgency, the careful approaches were understandable.
But a goal was needed to bring the game to life after the placid early stages. And Western United provided it, scoring first in the 27th minute, converting after a fine concerted spell of possession and aided by a defensive miscue.
At the end of a three-man move off a short corner with Max Burgess doing well to hold possession, Glory goalkeeper Liam Reddy punched Burgess’ clever right-sided chip straight into Besart Berisha’s path. The Kosovan, who had timed his run perfectly to stay onside, collided with the clearance to tuck the most coincidental of touches home.
“I try and put myself in those good situations, but sometimes you have to rely on a bit of luck, too,” said Berisha about the goal.
Western United continued to maintain possession after the opening goal, hungry for a second goal as halftime approached. However, Glory’s backline remained resolute to limit their opportunities, just as Western United maintained their own defensive shape to keep Fornaroli and his attacking mates in check.
Six minutes after the break, Berisha doubled his account and Western United’s lead from the spot. Winger Conor Pain’s incisive run into the penalty area ran straight into Ivan Franjic’s rash challenge, and Berisha easily increased the pain to Glory in easily converting the ensuing penalty kick.
Even by the hour mark, down 2-0 following their previous 4-0 defeat a few days earlier, Glory’s collective body language was fraught with looks of discouragement – and badly needing a goal to lift their morale. Popovic rolled the dice with a triple-substitution in the 65th minute to inspire the troops, but despite some good spells of possession, few quality chances would be created against the shape of the Western United backline.
Glory would get a free kick at the top of the penalty area with a quarter-hour to go, but Fornaroli’s attempt was covered easily by Filip Kurto, as their best opportunity for the remainder of the match.
Western United kept its defensive shape solid in the centre to limit Glory’s effectiveness from anywhere but on the flanks, as Kurto earned a deserved clean sheet.
Berisha vowed that Western United would not relax in the team’s remaining two games against arguably the A-League’s best two clubs.
And in doing so, he stressed that the club must maintain its momentum.
“To be sure, we have to keep our momentum going, and keep our foot on the pedal,” he said.