There was a surprising amount of drama at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night considering the match between Brisbane and the Heart was virtually a dead rubber. The Roar had already secured top spot in the table in the previous round (and were even treated to a guard of honour by their opponents as they entered the pitch), while the Heart had only the slimmest of hopes of making the finals series. Nonetheless, there was controversy in the very first minute when a Heart penalty shout was inexplicably overruled for offside.
The main talking point of the night, however, came in the 49th minute, when the A-League's highest profile Albanian, Besart Berisha, was sent off for the third time this season after lunging in at a ball and catching goalkeeper Tando Velaphi in the head with his studs. The striker was unfortunate to be shown a red ticket, but at the same time such lunges always carry a risk of injuring an opponent and, subsequently, a risk of dismissal. Nobody can question Berisha's passion, and the Victory-bound forward left the pitch utterly distraught, with tears streaming down his face. Henrique, too, was left in tears, but of a different kind, as he scored a lovely goal to win the football match which was taking place in the background.
2. Mariners' morale boosted, Wanderers wobble (Hamish Neal @ Bluetongue Stadium)
In what was the Mariners' first triumph over the Wanderers in Gosford the dramatic ending could give the Central Coast a significant boost for Tuesday's game in the AFC Champions League. Nick Montgomery, Mitchell Duke and Bernie Ibini all contributed well in coming off the bench (with the latter scoring the winning goal) and can expect to play larger roles on Tuesday evening against Beijing Guoan.
Tony Popovic will be concerned that a solid first-half display by the Wanderers imploded so badly late in the fixture. To beat Brisbane and probably a side like Adelaide in the finals the Wanderers will need a ninety-minute performance. Are they suffering ACL fatigue? Popovic says no, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
3. Victory lacking a cutting edge (Iain Strachan @ AAMI Park)
The home side dominated possession and shaded the contest on chances in Saturday night's drawn 'Big Blue', but struggled to create clear-cut opportunities. They have already taken a step to remedy that deficiency by signing poacher extraordinaire Besart Berisha, who can hopefully stay on the pitch in navy blue and white more frequently than he has in orange this season.
Victory's inability to open up a dogged Sky Blues rearguard was poor reward for the exceptional hard work put in by Mark Milligan and Adama Traore, who ran themselves into the ground and as a consequence will miss the AFC Champions League trip to take on Yokohama F Marinos.
Guilherme Finkler did everything in his power to create the decisive moment against Sydney, and his impressive performances in the second half of the season will arm his representatives with plenty of bargaining power during on-going contract negotiations with the club.
Sign here please | Clubs will be queuing up to secure Gui's signature if Victory pass@IainStrachan
4. Jets leaves themselves a tough assignment (Michael Washbourne @ nib Stadium)
The Newcastle Jets need to win their remaining matches against title contenders Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United to have any chance of qualifying for their first finals series since 2010 following Sunday's 2-1 loss to Perth Glory at nib Stadium.
The luxury for Newcastle will be that both matches will be played at Hunter Stadium, where they have won their past two matches. Newcastle is capable of making waves in the finals if they can finish in the top six, but will need to avoid brainfades like the one that cost them victory against Glory, who are now equal with Melbourne Heart on 25 points and a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon if they can upset Central Coast and Sydney FC in the remaining matches.
Glory created lots of chances against the Jets and persisted right until the death to snap a 10-game winless run and keep alive Kenny Lowe’s chances of becoming the club’' full-time coach.
5. Spluttering Reds get the job done (Dejan Kalinic)
This was far from Adelaide's most impressive performance of the season, but it was a key three points for Josep Gombau's men. A top-two spot and automatic semi-final place is still up for grabs for the Reds after Marcelo Carrusca's delightful 'Panenka' penalty in the second half gave them a 1-0 win. The encounter was an otherwise forgettable one that lacked rhythm and fluency. Gombau will know his side need to improve with their possession-based game that largely failed them at Westpac Stadium. Fouls, and the inability of his attackers to seriously threaten, left them struggling, yet they still grabbed a crucial three points.