Safety. Both APIA-Leichhardt Tigers and South Coast Wolves craved it.
APIA-Leichhardt now have it, despite Keith Shevlin smashing a second half penalty against the crossbar, having scored one earlier in the game.
For South Coast Wolves, the 1-1 draw means that they have a do-or-die encounter with Central Coast Mariners Academy next weekend.
You could cut the tension with a knife at kick off.
APIA-Leichhardt coach Billy McColl threw caution to the wind, playing three up front and three at the back, a surprise move which saw Adel El Jamal reprise a role as an auxiliary striker.
It worked well for APIA-Leichhardt as they raced out of the blocks.
Stephen Kayes had a long range shot whistle just wide as early as the 4′ minute. It was close enough to the top corner to have Wolves ‘keeper Daniel Collison flying through the air in vain.
David D’Apuzzo was back from suspension and the APIA faithful held their breath as he lined up a free-kick right on the quarter of an hour mark. It sailed wide, but APIA-Leichhardt was well on top.
With El Jamal up front and Lambert Park in terrible shape, long balls were the method of the evening for both sides.
It didn’t make for a spectacle in a football sense, but in terms of drama, it was truly fantastic.
Just as APIA-Leichhardt harboured hopes of putting one into the back of the net, they were caught by a Wolves sucker punch and APIA-Leichhardt ‘keeper Andrew Bazi had only himself to blame.
A long ball over the top lured Bazi from his area, but his header was weak and it fell to the feet of Wolves hotshot Zucco.
With Bazi in no-mans-land, Zucco calmly lobbed the ball in from all of 25-yards to give Wolves the lead, against the run of play.
It was a goal that settled the visiting side, Zucco and especially Steven Hayes, showing their class.
7′ minutes later though, APIA-Leichhardt had the goal that they so dearly deserved.
Franco Parisi cut inside from the left and when his shot struck the arm of Jack Keating, referee Michael Weiner pointed to the spot.
Shevlin stepped up and confidently placed the ball into the top left corner of the net and APIA-Leichhardt was alive again.
Shortly before half-time, El Jamal released Jason Oswell with a killer pass to be proud of, only for Oswell to shank the cross behind.
In first-half stoppage time, APIA-Leichhardt had their best chance of the match.
D’Apuzzo’s corner found the head of Michael West, unmarked in the area, but his header went into the ground and over the cross-bar.
The second 45′ minutes brought a tactical adjustment from McColl.
El Jamal was moved to right-back and APIA-Leichhardt played a more orthodox back four, perhaps sensing a Wolves onslaught.
It certainly came.
Zucco nearly scored a goal for the ages, just 4′ minutes into the second-half.
Chesting the ball up on the edge of the area, Zucco somehow swivelled and contorted himself to send an overhead kick towards goal. Bazi made a leaping save, in part redeeming himself for his earlier mistake.
South Coast should have taken the lead in the 55’ minutes when Peter Simonoski was in on goal, but Bazi made another sharp stop.
The rebound fell to the usually clinical Zucco, but he lost his composure, smashing the ball over the bar.
It was a let off for APIA-Leichhardt, who were by now clinging on.
Kayes let fly with a volley from range that was straight at Collison, before Shevlin won a penalty when he was brought down by Samuel Chapple.
Shevlin stepped up again.
The APIA faithful couldn’t watch and only the shattering sound of ball against crossbar brought them back to consciousness.
It didn’t cost them and for once, APIA-Leichhardt had a bit of luck go their way.
APIA-Leichhardt coach Billy McColl was relieved to come away with the vital point:
"It was good to win the Waratah Cup and the boys have been giving 100%," he said.
"We just lacked luck.
"Tonight we had a little bit of luck, getting two penalties, but even then we could only score one of them!" McColl laughed.
South Coast Wolves coach Richard Lloyd is looking forward to next week’s huge match:
"It was another tense night for us," he said.
"Every team we’ve come up against has been right up for it.
"We’ve had no easy passages, but I like that because it teaches the younger guys how to play at the top level," Lloyd concluded.
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 1 (Keith Shevlin (pen) 24′)
South Coast Wolves 1 (Ricky Zucco 16′)
Saturday 10th August, 2013
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: Craig Fisher and Lance Greenshields
Fourth Official: Mitchell Clark
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 22.Andrew Bazi; 2.Mark Byrnes, 3.Adel El Jamal, 5.Michael West (C), 7.Stephen Kayes, 8.Keith Shevlin, 9.Jason Oswell (35.Marko Micevski 71′), 10.Franco Parisi (6.Michael Hawrysuik 88′), 11.Paul Galimi, 13.David D’Apuzzo, 18.Aaron Clapham
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Simon Jaeger (GK), 4.Brendan Reilly, 20.Joshua Symons
Yellow Cards: David D’Apuzzo 74′, Paul Galimi 82′
Red Cards: Nil
South Coast Wolves: 1.Daniel Collison; 2.Jack Keating, 3.Matthew Kocic, 4.Samuel Chapple, 6.Christopher Nathaniel, 8.Steven Hayes, 9.Peter Simonoski, 10.Ricky Zucco, 11.John Martinoski (7.Josh Bingham 88′), 14.Mitchell Delturco (12.Joseph Lavalle 74′) 17.Zachary Mackenzie
Substitutes Not Used: 20.Thomas Hamilton (GK), 13.Shannon Fielding
Yellow Cards: Samuel Chapple 66′, Joseph Lavalle 86′, Steven Hayes 91′
Red Cards: Nil
-By Matthew Connellan