'He's been hurting': 18 months of pain behind Berisha's historic moment
Down, hurting, but not out: a difficult spell in the J-League took its toll on Besart Berisha, according to Western United boss Mark Rudan.
But that 18-month goal-drought in Japan has not hindered the all-time top scorer's insatiable appetite for Hyundai A-League goals, or his ability to seize the moment with near-inevitable expertise.
It took the veteran striker just 34 minutes to score Western United's first-ever, and his 117th in the competition, to give the new kids on the block a first-time win against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
That was the first time the 34-year-old had rippled the net since scoring a famous acrobatic winner for Melbourne Victory against Adelaide United in the Eliminational Final of April 2018, a strike that would help Berisha on the way to a fourth Championship win.
"He's been hurting not playing much football," Rudan said. Berisha played just 286 minutes for Sanfrecce Hiroshima following his signature in June last year. "The guy's a winner, he's hungry. I knew that he was a guy that was going to improve our football club.
"I'm really happy for him because he's had a hard time, a tough time over there in Japan."
Berisha is now the outright 10th highest scorer in Australian national league history, having usurped former Melbourne Knights and South Melbourne striker Ivan Kelic (116). National Soccer League marksmen Paul Trimboli (119), Marshall Soper (121) and Bobby Despotovski are now in his sights.
"He lifts the intensity in training. He's a winner. He makes sure everybody does the right thing in training, he lifts the bar at the football club."
Read on for the key Hyundai A-League talking points from Round 1!
Duke: We had to battle
Mitchell Duke admitted his Western Sydney Wanderers side were a bit 'underdone' in their season-opening win over Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.
Duke's double helped the Wanderers come from behind to mark their return to Parramatta with three points.
It wasn't a performance befitting of the club's spectacular homecoming, but the result - one gained through grit - was the only thing that mattered according to the Red and Black captain.
"We've got a few players who are underdone," Duke told the club website post-match. "We knew the back end of the game was always going to be a bit of a battle.
"You could see the desperation the end, clearing the balls off the line, bodies throwing themselves at it. That's the biggest ingredient to successful teams."
Fowler's Roar improvement
On the basis his side's 1-1 draw at the home of the reigning Hyundai A-League Premiers, Brisbane Roar will be a much improved force under Robbie Fowler this season.
After riding out an early Chris Ikonomidis-led storm, Brisbane steadied and arguably edged Perth Glory in the second half at HBF Park, as Roy O'Donovan struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time to earn Fowler a point in his first match in the Hyundai A-League dugout.
“It took us until just over 94 minutes to score a goal but it’s a goal that we deserved," Fowler said.
“We could have had a little bit more as well but it just shows you what we have in team.
“We have brilliant attitude, brilliant character… that never-say-die attitude is what you want from football teams. We showed that in abundance.”
For a team that conceded a staggering league-record 71 goals last season, Brisbane - who fielded nine club debutants on the night - have already shown strong signs of defensive improvement. It was also the first time since November 2018 that the Queenslanders finished a Hyundai A-League match with possession higher than 50% (55%) and a passing accuracy of 80% (84%).
"We looked like we were the fitter side in the second half," Roar skipper Tom Aldred said.
Melbourne derby deadlock
A promising new era for both Melbourne clubs began with a tense derby stalemate, but new Victory boss Marco Kurz and his counterpart Erick Mombaerts might just be satisfied with Saturday's opening day draw.
Both sides created chances but neither was able to break the deadlock in front of 33,523 fans at Marvel Stadium, with Victory flyer Elvis Kamsoba going the closest - but a debut goal and magnificent celebration to match was ruled out by VAR for offside.
Plenty for both Kurz and Mombaerts to consider.
McGowan spares Sydney blushes
Adelaide-born Ryan McGowan plunged a dagger into the hearts of his hometown club to give Sydney FC a winning start over 10-man Adelaide United on Friday night.
McGowan's towering late header helped the Sky Blues escape the City of Churches with a 3-2 victory, after Adelaide had cancelled out Adam Le Fondre's first half double and clawed their way back to 2-2.
Steve Corica will be looking for immediate improvement from the reigning Champions, who did not quite make the most of their numerical advantage following Ryan Strain's dismissal for hauling a goal-bound Le Fondre to the floor early in the second half.