If Saturday evening's match between Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC was the grand final dress rehearsal it was billed as, then Alex Brosque is hoping Football Federation Australia appoint a different referee for the actual decider.
Sydney FC's captain slammed the performance of the officials after Newcastle Jets were awarded a controversial penalty in the Sky Blues' shock 2-1 loss away from home.
Newcastle opened the scoring from the spot after defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley went to ground amid the slightest contact from opposite centre-back, Jordy Buijs, with replays suggesting Topor-Stanley likely slipped on his own accord.
Brosque was baffled Chris Beath immediately pointed to the spot instead of requesting assistance from the Video Assistant Referee, awarding the Jets a penalty successfully converted by attacking midfielder Dimitri Petratos.
"The thing is I’m not blaming the VAR because it’s not an obvious error because there was a minor hand on him but clearly, everyone has seen he slipped," Brosque said.
“The referee didn’t. He was the only one in the stadium.”
On head-to-head, nothing separates Sydney FC and Newcastle over three games played during the regular season with both teams winning their home match by a 2-1 scoreline while settling for a 2-2 draw in the other game.
Both are on track to meet again in the A-League grand final.
But Brosque believes their most recent match will no have no bearing on their possible fourth this season - so long as there is a different referee in charge of the potential decider.
"There were a lot of contentious calls, there will be a different referee in the grand final so what happened tonight won’t happen again," Brosque said. "I don’t think we can take too much from it even if we do meet again because it was a game played in very strange situations."
Sydney FC's captain was frustrated with the decision to award the Jets a penalty as well as being denied a spot-kick after being body-checked inside the box but did not blame the result on the officials.
Instead, he criticised his team's abandonment of the game plan after the Jets were reduced to 10 men after just 13 minutes when Roy O'Donovan was sent-off for striking Jordy Buijs. Despite receiving a numerical advantage so early in the match, Brosque says Sydney's attitude dropped.
"We probably switched off at that moment and thought the game was done and went away from our normal game plan. The game was wrecked for me in the 13th minute. It ended up being a good spectacle for the crowd so it didn’t wreck the game entirely," he said.
"It was a frustrating result.
“The game plan went out the window when they had a man sent off. I don’t think that from there we had that ruthlessness we normally have to kill the game off and put it to bed."
The heroic performance of the Jets provided their first win over Sydney FC in 16 attempts and was watched by their biggest home crowd in almost six years, attracting more than 18,000 through the turnstiles.
"I think the crowd was amazing today and all the boys were speaking about it after the game, little chills," Petratos said.
In claiming a major scalp over the runaway league leaders, the Jets believe they claimed a significant psychological advantage over the Sky Blues leading into a potential finals showdown after beating them with only 10-men for 80 minutes.
"I think it was a good test for us. I think that it’s a shame it happened but it showed our character today and prepared us for the finals," Petratos said. "It’s a never give up attitude and we showed it today and I think it comes at a great time towards the end of the season leading towards the finals."