Gwelup Croatia maintained their unbeaten start to the State League Division One season with a 3-2 win against Fremantle City at Hilton Park.
The match was decided by an amazing hat-trick by Benny Kouakou, as City surrended a 2-1 lead in a pulsating match.
In wet and blustery conditions, the game was tight at the start with some good link-up play by City seeing Alan Carroll’s goal-bound effort blocked.
From there Gwelup’s attack pulled the City defence out of position, David Heagney’s shot just over the bar being the first salvo fired by the visitors on 10 minutes. Victor Bruaner then had a shot curl just over, while City had a goal chalked off for offside.
The first sign of Kouakou was when his shot was saved by the fingertips of City keeper Tom Chuddy. Then on 32 minutes Gwelup were up 1-0 after some trickery down the left from Brauner saw him lay the ball off to Kouakou at the far post to slide home.
It seemed City could wilt but near half-time they were back to 1-1. A brilliant free-kick from central defender Josh Wade saw the ball curl past the wall and keeper Riley Stephenson and into the net.
In the final moments before half-time City could have been 2-1 up when Anthony Lomma’s shot deflected to the lively Kenel Mouithys who somehow screwed wide.
In the second half things got robust with bookings dished out to both teams.
Mouithys was then put through on goal but his shot was put behind. From the corner City captain Alec Robinson got a head to the ball at the far post and it just crossed the line before being cleared. The referee declared it was a goal and City were up 2-1 to the delight of the locals.
Their joy lasted all of 90 seconds, though, when Gwelup equalised straight from the kick-off. A diagonal ball let in Kouakou and he screwed the ball in at the near post from a tight angle and it was suddenly 2-2.
City’s tackles became more rash as they looked to recover from letting in such a soft goal. But on 70 minutes they were behind for the second time in the game as Kouakou claimed his hat-trick with in real style. The fit-again forward received the ball with his back to goal, spun and off the one step chipped the keeper with an exquisite finish to make it 3-2.
Deep in injury time Robinson had a great opportunity to level when he was allowed a free header from a corner but his attempt went inches wide.
With his team already just one match away from the national Round of 32 in the FFA Cup and now extending their lead at the top of the league, Gwelup coach Taki Nicolaidis had plenty of reason to be happy.
Of Kouakou he said: “It was good to have him back and you can’t coach what he does.”
City coach Marc Anthony thought his team deserved a point after their second-half display but added: “The winning goal was a piece of real quality but the quick reply cost us in the end.”
City take on Ashfield next week away from while Gwelup will host South West Phoenix in a big clash.
Fremantle City 2 (Wade 42min Robinson 62)
Gwelup Croatia 3 (Kouakou 32, 63, 70)
Saturday, May 26
Referee: B Skinner
Assistant referees: J Hicks, S Lozie
Fremantle City: 1. Tom CHUDDY 2. Josh WADE 3. Sheldon NOGUERIA 5. Luke FINDLATER 6. Adam BLEWETT 8. Alan CARROLL 9. Kenel MOUITHYA 10. Alec ROBINSON 11. Callum ROBERTS 14. Wade FARMER (19. Ben REYNOLDS 85) 15. Anthony LOMMA
Substitutes not used: 12. Sabin SHRESTHA 20. Struan HERD 4. Ollie PARRY
Yellow cards: Carroll 27 Lomma 54 Farmer 68
Red cards: Nil
Gwelup Croatia: 98. Riley STEPHENSON 2. Michael PUGLIESE 4. Cameron YORKE 10. Angel ANDRES (7. James SAMMUT 77) 5. Bobby WILSON 12. Benjamin KOVADIO 11. Isaac KOOMSON (Ralph MAWIRE 85) 9. David HEAGNEY 14. Victor BRAUNER 16. Stephen O’LEARY
Substitutes not used: 1. Connor CAMPBELL 3. David MARTINS 41. Nelson TSHONGO
Yellow cards: Heagney 50
Red cards: Nil