Sublime Argentine Marcelo Carrusca scored as Adelaide United climbed four rungs on the A-League ladder with a 1-0 triumph against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.
Carrusca was the dominant force in the victory at Adelaide’s Coopers Stadium as the Reds leapt from ninth to fifth on the table.
The gifted midfielder scored in the fourth minute, threading a sweet strike into the top of the net – but the build-up to the goal was controversial.
Adelaide striker Bruce Djite hooked the ball from the clutches of Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic when the ball appeared to be over the by-line.
Djite’s pass found Carrusca and, making light of a tight angle, he slotted a left-footer from about 10 metres.
The visitors protested, but the Reds had stolen a decisive advantage – and they proceeded to control an opening half punctuated by Carrusca’s brilliance.
The 30-year-old, on return from a two-match absence with a groin injury, toyed with his opponents and produced a series of slick party tricks which mesmerised the Wanderers.
One shrewd Carrusca through-ball put his teammate Jeronimo on a path to goal but the striker’s shot slid past the far post – a scenario repeated some 20 minutes later.
The Reds lost their influential left winger Michael Zullo in the 31st minute to a right leg injury and his absence coincided with a revival from Western Sydney.
The Wanderers launched a series of attacking sorties, including an audacious bicycle kick from 15 metres out by Japanese star Shinji Ono which lobbed on top of the net.
But Adelaide held their lead to the break and maintained their upper hand in the second stanza, with Carrusca again prominent until substituted in the 74th minute.
The Reds have now beaten leaders Brisbane and second-placed Wanderers in consecutive games in a six match unbeaten streak.
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic said Carrusca’s goal was dubious.
“We all felt the ball was out,” he said.
“You would hope the officials would get that right so early in the game but they made a call on it and you can’t change that.”
Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau said he was satisfied to rise into the top six.
“We are happy – today we can enjoy, but tomorrow we have to start to work again,” he said.
“The league is very close, very equal, and every single game is very important.”