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Gwelup held as title race hots up
Report by Navrin Secker
The Division One title race took another twist on Saturday as leaders Gwelup Croatia were held 2-2 at home by third place Fremantle City.
Despite grabbing a late equaliser, the draw ended Fremantle’s hopes of claiming the only promotion spot to the NPL WA. They remain three points behind Gwelup but with a bye in the last round and an inferior goal difference, their valiant effort is set to fall just short.
Indeed the team who probably cheered Darren Francis’ 87th-minute leveller the most were Western Knights in second. They slipped up 3-2 at Forrestfield United and would have fallen five points behind with two matches remaining if not for Francis’ intervention.
Things were looking good for Fremantle when Luca Maffioli put them ahead with a scrappy goal in just the third minute. The striker found himself on the end of a good cross from the right and despite the initial shot being blocked he found the back of the net with his second attempt.
Gwelup had a chance to equalise when Isaac Koomson got to the byline and put a dangerous ball into the area, but Andrew Scaldaferro inexplicably missed the target.
The hosts looked to have scored from a corner deep in first-half stoppage time but it was ruled out as the ball had gone out of play before curling back into the box.
Gwelup threw on Sean Canham at half-time and after drawing a couple of reflex saves from Fremantle goalkeeper Yousri Gharsallah, the tall striker eventually produced the equaliser with a clinical finish in the 78th minute.
The cracks began to surface for Fremantle and Denzel Tshuma received a second yellow for a crunching challenge on Canham just minutes later.
Seven minutes from time Geelup looked to have won it. They were awarded another free-kick and Ellis Healing found the back of the net with a driven effort around the wall.
With their season on the line Fremantle refused to lie down and substitute Francis equalised with a spectacular long-range effort to snatch the 10 men an unlikely point.
Star player: Sean Canham (Gwelup Croatia)
Gwelup Croatia 2 (Canham 78min, Healing 83)
Fremantle City 2 (Maffioli 3, Francis 87)
Croatia Sporting Complex
Saturday, August 24
Referee: Michal Jasinski
Assistant referees: Amir Hosany, Julian Ki
Gwelup Croatia: 2. Ciaran SALINGER, 4. Sam WYNNE, 8. Matthew SPARROW, 12. Isaac KOOMSON, 15. Andrew SCALDAFERRO (17. Sean CANHAM 46), 25. Ali GHOLAMI, 30. Graham TOUGH, 33. Nasser BELLO, 77. Ellis HEALING, 88. Bobby WILSON, 98. Riley STEPHENSON
Unused substitutes: 16. Tyler UGLOW, 27. Lucas MUNOZ, 35. Afian GIYANTO, 62. Mitchell PAPAS
Yellow cards: Sparrow 45+1
Red cards: nil
Fremantle City: 3. Emmanuel KANKPEYENG, 4. Denzel TSHUMA, 6. Mordecai APPIAH (11. Nick JACKSON 77), 7. Cisco JORQUERA, 8. Adrian MANNO (17. Egide NGENDAKUMANA 57), 9. Angel ANDRES, 12. Andrea ERBETTA, 13. Danny CLAPHAM (2. Darren FRANCIS 45+2), 15. Marco PERIZZOLO, 16. Luca MAFFIOLI, 88. Yousri GHARSALLAH
Unused substitutes: 14. Cameron LOMAX, 33. Gianluca DE FELICE
Yellow cards: Tshuma 22, Manno 31, Jorquera 61, Perizzolo 80
Red cards: Tshuma 80