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Besart Berisha looking over his shoulder after 'King' Kenny Athiu's match-winning performance

11:49 AM GMT+8 09/04/2018
Besart Berisha Ken Athiu Melbourne Victory
The Albanian has long been Victory's king in front of goal but now he faces a challenger for the crown

It certainly isn't time to write the obituary for Besart Berisha's Melbourne Victory career just yet, but Sunday's stunning cameo from back-up striker Kenny Athiu has changed the team's attacking dynamic - and put the Albanian's standing within the squad under threat.

Since Berisha signed at Victory from Brisbane Roar for the 2014-15 season, he has been the team's undisputed king in front of goal to the point where the club has barely bothered to sign a back-up centre forward.

In his 106 A-League appearances for the blue-and-white, Berisha has scored 67 goals - proving he has been the man they can rely on to hit the back of the net.

Extraordinarily, he has played 85 minutes or more an unbelievable 93 times out of those 106 league matches - and has never once started as a substitute.

If Victory have ever needed a goal, plan A has always relied on Berisha to lead the attacking line, with no plan B usually relevant.

But lately in a new turn to the 32-year-old's Victory's career, coach Kevin Muscat has opted to haul Berisha off the field when the club has needed a goal - most notably in the Brisbane defeat at home and Sunday's match against Wellington.

It may simply be management of the Albanian's tired legs, or the fact he is covering a slight niggle, but it seems to be most likely that back-up striker Athiu has added something different to the team in the final third.

Athiu was signed from Victorian NPL club Heidelberg after impressing in the FFA Cup, but the 25-year-old has barely had a sniff of game time as he makes the jump from semi-professional to full-time football.

Now that he appears to be match-fit, the six-foot-six Athiu appears primed to make an impact on Victory games, with his height, pace and unpredictability unsettling defences.

These attributes were the catalyst for Victory's comeback against Wellington, with Athiu's quick touch into space drawing the penalty, before his positioning and heading ability helping nabbed the winner.

There is no doubt Athiu has a long way to go to become a bona-fide consistent A-League striker but Muscat will be delighted he has unearthed another attacking option.

The showings of dissent from Berisha after being substituted early in the match may just become a more regular thing.

Wanderers show signs of life

With speculation still swirling about the future of coach Josep Gombau, Western Sydney Wanderers have put in two of their best performances this season against Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar in the past few weeks.

'Gombau ball' seems to be finally clicking within the squad and the Spaniard seems to have found a nice balance of players in his first XI.

Alvaro Cejudo has looked like the marquee signing he was meant to be in recent matches, while Oriol Riera, Chris Ikonomidis and the Baccus brothers have also impressed immensely.

Maybe the red and black will have a part to play in finals?

Sky Blues back to their frightening best

Sydney FC barely got out of second gear as they cruised past Adelaide on Sunday night, with their foreign stars Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo starring.

They even had the luxury of resting reigning Johnny Warren Medallist Milos Ninkovic and using him off the bench later in the match.

After going through a period of winning of only one of seven matches through February and March, the Sky Blues are now set for finals and it will take a titanic effort to stop them.

Special mention to Bobo for breaking the A-League single-season goal record with 26 strikes so far.

The Brazilian isn't the quickest or the best dribbler, but he is clearly the best competition at putting the ball in the back of the net, and that's his job.

Melbourne City shaping as best challenger to Sydney FC

With Newcastle and Melbourne Victory both looking defensively suspect, Melbourne City are poised to be the Sky Blues' biggest threat in finals.

Warren Joyce's men haven't conceded a goal in their three-game winning streak and appear primed for an assault on the championship.

Striker Bruno Fornaroli is starting to hit top form and midfielder Luke Brattan is taking games by the scruff of the neck in midfield.

With Daniel Arzani's x-factor and Dario Vidosic providing experience, City are certainly looking the goods at the business end of the season.

What could have been for Perth Glory

Perth Glory have won four of their last six games but still appear destined to miss finals unless results go there way in the A-League's final round.

Adam Taggart has been in scintillating form for the Glory this season with seven goals, but has only played 13 matches because of injury.

With the addition of Neil Kilkenny and Taggart's return to fitness have coincided with the Glory's run of quality form.

Imagine if they had Diego Castro, Andy Keogh, Taggart and Kilkenny fit for most of the season?

They would likely already be a finals lock.