Adelaide have missed out on a coveted top-two A-League finish, so coach Josep Gombau says they must now focus on their championship tilt – and he hopes to have star playmaker Marcelo Carrusca back in action.
Western Sydney upset the 10-man Reds 2-1 at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday courtesy of a Mark Bridge winner to ensure Gombau’s men can finish no higher than third spot.
Adelaide miss out on going straight through to a home semi-final and also on to an Asian Champions League (ACL) berth.
“Of course it’s our objective to finish top two and to have a place in the Champions League, but in the end all 10 teams are fighting for the same,” Gombau said.
“So now we have to have a new objective and a new focus. Our focus had to be the finals.”
The Reds dominated possession but were clearly lacking the creative flair injured Argentine Carrusca (quad) provides.
After sitting out three games, Gombau said he hoped to have Carrusca back for their last clash before the finals against Melbourne City next week.
“He is a player that we miss, of course,” he said.
“Today we had the ball a lot around his area and we were missing that winning last pass.
“He’s a player that makes a difference.
“Next week we hope he can play for a while, and after for the finals we’ll have him for sure.”
Fittingly, Bridge scored the 73rd-minute winner in a game in which he became just the ninth A-League player to make 200 appearances.
Reds defender Nigel Boogaard reached a milestone of another kind becoming the most sent-off player in competition history, overtaking Kevin Muscat with his sixth dismissal.
That forced Adelaide to play out the last 30 minutes with 10 men and gifted the Wanderers a penalty that Tomi Juric slotted home to cancel out Sergio Cirio’s opening strike.
The result lifts the Wanderers off the bottom of the ladder with one round remaining.
The Wanderers host scandal-plagued Perth in their final game of the season, where a win will ensure they avoid the wooden spoon.
“No one want to finish bottom and I’m pleased that now it’s in our hands to make sure we don’t,” coach Tony Popovic said.
The victory also gives the Wanderers a boost before their crucial ACL game against Kashima Antlers on Tuesday.
With the Japanese side already in Sydney, Popovic hopes the result will send a message.
“Today we didn’t look like a team who were bottom. You don’t come back like that against a side like Adelaide if you’re a poor side,” he said.
“So we need to take that into Tuesday.”