Gwelup Croatia are the 2019 State League Division One Champions after a come-from-behind 3-1 win against Subiaco at Wishart Street on Saturday afternoon.
The hosts went into the game needing only a point to seal the title, but they found themselves behind early with Benjamin Campbell stunning the big crowd.
But a late goal from Danny Hodgson followed by a brace from Ellis Healing saw Gwelup take their place in next season’s National Premier Leagues WA competition, a great success for a club who were playing amateur football only three years ago.
It wasn’t the start the home side were looking for, however, as seven minutes in Subiaco took the lead. A long clearance from teenage keeper Luke Tartaglia was flicked on and Campbell raced clear and finished with aplomb past Riley Stevenson.
Delight for Gwelup head coach Taki Nicolaidis, left, and his players. Photo by Peter Simcox
The visitors were bossing the game, with Antonio Naglieri outstanding in the middle of the park, and they were in again on 23 minutes. Campbell was given far too much room in the middle of the park and his long-range effort crashed off the crossbar.
Two minutes later another ball over the top caught the home sides’ defence square and Shay Donavan skipped past Bobby Wilson, rounded Stephenson, but his shot from the angle was cleared off the line by Graham Tough.
Subiaco thought they had doubled their lead on moments later, Matthew Lenzo heading home, but the assistant’s flag was up for offside.
The home side startied to get into the game late in the half, but were struggling to breakdown a Subiaco defence well marshalled by Dean Aplegren, and at the break Subiaco led.
The one consolation for Gwelup was that Western Knights were goalless at half-time at UWA Nedlands – if Knights won big then Gwelup might need a point to avoid another crushing disappointment after missing out to Rockingham in the final round last year.
Gwelup players celebrate. Photo by Peter Simcox
Gwelup were on the front foot after the break and Matthew Sparrow’s shot was deflected wide, before Sean Canham headed over the top.
But it was Subiaco creating the better chances and they were in again on 69 minutes. A superb ball from Naglieri sent Donavan racing clear, he beat Stephenson to the ball but failed to find the target.
That miss came back to haunt Subiaco as four minutes later Gwelup levelled. Healing’s corner was headed back across goal by Canham, and in the goalmouth scramble second-half substitute Hodgson fired the ball home.
The goal seemed to settle the players and supporters down and four minutes later Gwelup hit the front. Heagney picked Healing out on the edge of the penalty area, and the midfielder curled it past Tartaglia and into the top corner.
Gwelup wrapped up the points and the title eight minutes from time when referee Brendan Skinner spotted a foul by Vasco Da Silva on Canham, and he pointed straight to the spot. Healing stepped up to score the penalty and the celebrations in the crowd started in earnest.
Gwelup get ready to party. Photo by Peter Simcox
Star player: Antonio Naglieri (Subiaco)
Gwelup Croatia 3 (Hodgson 73min, Healing 76, 82)
Subiaco 1 (Campbell 7)
Saturday September 7
Referee: Brendan Skinner
Assistant referees: Ethan Persse, Sam Becarevic
Gwelup Croatia: GK Riley STEPHENSON, 2 Ciaran SALINGER (6 Brodie MARTIN 71), 5 Clark KELTIE, 8 Matthew SPARROW, 9 David HEAGNEY, 12 Isaac KOOMSON (10 Danny HODGSON 63), 15 Andrew SCALDAFERRO, 17 Sean CANHAM (33 Nasser BELLO 83), 30 Graham TOUGH, 77 Ellis HEALING, 88 Bobby WILSON
Substitutes not used: RGK Connor CAMPBELL, 25 Ali GHOLAMI
Yellow cards: Heagney 53, Martin 79
Red cards: Nil
Subiaco: GK Luke TARTAGLIA, 6 Benjamin PULLELLA (18 Vasco DA SILVA 57), 7 Nathan SMITH, 8 Domenico DE FELICE, 10 Benjamin CAMPBELL, 11 Shay DONOVAN, 13 Jackson DONGRAY (9 Adam CARLINO 64), 14 Matthew LENZO, 15 Antonio NAGLIERI, 19 Matthew CHERRIE (16 Liam FYFE 73), 22 Dean APELGREN
Substitutes not used: RGK Mitchell STACEY, 17 Vlad NAUMOVSKI
Yellow cards: Da Silva 82, De Felice 92
Red cards: Nil