Report by Chris Caldwell
Nicola Gazzola’s hat-trick lit up the State League Night Series final at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium on Sunday night when South West Phoenix claimed a 3-0 victory over Forrestfield United.
The tricky attacker showed an array of skills and clinical finishing when scoring the goals that earned his side the title.
He opened his account on 25 minutes, curling a delightful free kick from the right corner of the box, inside Luke Martino’s near post.
Then, just three minutes after the restart, Gazzola picked up possession 40 yards from goal and embarked on an incisive run that allowed him to dissect the Forrestfield rearguard before slotting the ball past Martino.
Five minutes later, the Italian completed his hat-trick with another clinical finish after collecting Lee Stewart’s throughball.
Phoenix coach Mauro Marchion was a happy man at the final whistle, but not just with his striker.
“I’m very delighted, not because of the three goals, but because of the performance altogether,” he said. “We looked very solid at the back and didn’t concede much.
“Nicola is an important player. When I can get players to come here from Italy I try to, to show the players in Bunbury what it means to play at this level and it lifts the rest of the team. He’s a good addition for us.”
The Bunbury-based outfit were unlucky not to open the scoring after only three minutes when James McCleary was denied by Martino’s feet and at the other end Ben Rogers looked odds on to score when he met Jordan Hart’s cross, but he headed wide.
The Phoenix almost made it 2-0, just two minutes after Gazzola’s opener, when McCleary surged through the middle, but under-pressure and while losing his balance he was only able to prod the ball towards Martino, who again saved with his feet.
Forrestfield went for broke with a triple substitution at the start of the second half, but that decision didn’t have the required effect as Gazzola struck twice in a five minute spell shortly after the restart.
Forrestfield responded well with Rhys Loxley cracking a shot from distance off the frame of Adam Guthridge’s goal and Will Tshabangu forcing Guthridge into a point-blank save before slicing the rebound wide of the target.
The Phoenix almost extended their lead around the hour mark as Stewart fired wide with a shot from 20 yards. He then forced Martino into a save after a pacey run from McCleary that left the Forrestfield defence chasing shadows.
Although the game was out of their reach by then, Forrestfield never gave up and continued to press, with a Liam Merigan effort, saved by Guthridge, their best opportunity for a consolation goal.
However, they were nearly caught by a fourth Phoenix goal on 87 minutes when Stewart burst clear, but he was denied, in some style, by Martino.
United coach Rod Banjac wasn’t disappointed with his team’s effort, but now looks ahead to the season.
“We had our chances and didn’t take them, while they did, but that’s the way it goes,” he said.
“The game was of good quality and we’re now ready for it and looking forward to it. We feel comfortable now to challenge and we have every reason to be optimistic.
“I’d like to congratulate Football West on organising a fantastic tournament. We had a fantastic journey and incorporated it into our pre-season. It’s been a fantastic advertisement for our code.”
South West Phoenix 3 (Gazzola, 25, 48, 53)
Forrestfield United 0
Sunday, March 16, 2017
Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium
Referee: Stephen Knight
Assistant referees: Shane Skinner, Andre Ferreira
Fourth official: Ammar Timour
South West Phoenix: 1. Adam GUTHRIDGE (Cpt), 2. Carlo CHIELLINI, 4. Corey BARCLAY, 5. Jarrad MORT, 6. Ryan STEWART, 7. Lee STEWART, 8. Kieran QUINN, 9. Nicola GAZZOLA, 10. James MCCLEARY (18. Maxwell ABABIO, 84), 13. Jayden PROSSER (16. Giordano MASCIA, 71), 15. Abdulla KAJA (20. Bright ABABIO, 63).
Substitutes not used: 11. Christopher NORMINTON, Dejan STOJANOVIC.
Yellow cards: Nil.
Red cards: Nil
Forrestfield United: 1. Luke MARTINO, 4. Mark BENNETT, 5. Kaan KARACAN (15. Milan VULIN, 46), 6. Mitchell CROCKER (12. Slobodan VULIN, 46), 7. Trevor LAURE (8. Dylan EASTTOUGH, 46), 10. Jordan HART, 11. Liam MERIGAN (Cpt), 13. Scott BARKER, 14. Ben ROGERS, 21. Will TSHABANGU, 23. Rhys LOXLEY.
Substitutes not used: 2. Day Day POE, 84. Ben PARRY.
Yellow cards: Nil.
Red cards: Nil.