For Sutherland it was a case of two points dropped, for APIA-Leichhardt Tigers it could well be the performance that kick starts their stuttering season.
When Panny Nikas and Jamie McMaster put Sutherland two goals up inside 12′ minutes, it looked all over.
Matthew Mayora pulled one back before the interval and when APIA threw the kitchen sink at Sutherland in the second half, they couldn’t hold out, with Mayora scoring his second in the final few minutes to earn the home side a point.
It was that kind of night at a wet and windy Lambert Park.
It was the classic game of two halves as Sutherland ran riot in the first stanza, and once they were 2-0 up they really should have put the game to bed, but they squandered a host of opportunities.
APIA’s goalkeeper Andrew Bazi was man of the match after he made a succession of superb saves to keep APIA in the game and the fact that they grabbed a point was as much down to Bazi’s heroics as Mayora’s finishing, after a sprightly and encouraging second 45′ minutes.
It looked like it would be one-way-traffic when Sutherland scored twice in four minutes to open up a two goal advantage in the first half.
Panny Nikas’ fifth goal in five games put Sutherland ahead with just 8′ minutes on the clock.
The Sharks midfielder showed typically deft feet to dribble from the right hand edge of the penalty area, across the face and into the area, before placing a calm left footed finish past Bazi, who had no chance.
The defending was criminally poor and APIA shot themselves in the foot four minutes afterwards when a free kick from the right hand edge of the area was headed in by McMaster.
He rose unopposed to head past Bazi and put Sutherland two up with only 12′ minutes played.
It was one way traffic – APIA seemed to be hitting the snooze button when they really needed to get up and at Sutherland.
Midway through the first half, former APIA attacker Ethan Galbraith found himself one-on-one with Bazi, after a beautiful pass from the effervescent Nikas set him free.
Galbraith’s composure deserted him though and he shot over the bar. He had another chance in the 33′ minute but again his radar was awry and the opportunity was wasted.
Sutherland was made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as Mayora equalised with 8′ minutes remaining in the first half.
That he did was down to a sublime pass from the evergreen Franco Parisi.
The APIA playmaker dinked a delicious pass over the Sutherland defence to the onrushing Mayora, who clipped a first time finish past the previously unemployed Nathan Denham.
The pass was a lesson in vision and execution from Parisi and it was the sort of out-of-the-box magic of which he is so capable.
The goal led to a flurry of activity at the end of the half as Daniel Fogarty headed over an inch-perfect cross from Stephen Kayes and then Brad Bartels, who is in rare scoring form, could only shoot straight at Denham.
Sutherland could have restored their two goal advantage in injury time when Perry Moustakas raced forward on the counter attack, beating a number of APIA defenders, but he was eventually thwarted by Bazi. It was a sign of things to come.
Some stern words from APIA coach Billy McColl seemed to have the desired effect.
They created two one-on-one chances in the space of three minutes. Neither was scored and it was a case of "if only."
The first saw Mayora use his pace to beat Nicholas Littler, but he was denied by Denham in the 52′ minute.
Moments later, a sensational ball from Parisi set Bartels free, but when one-on-one with Denham he went for power rather than placement and his shot was straight at the goalkeeper.
Just before the hour mark, Nikas sprinkled his own bit of stardust on proceedings when he lined up a free kick from 25 yards out. He hit it with venom and it dipped and swerved before striking the post with Bazi beaten.
APIA pushed hard, sensing an equalising goal. On the other hand, Sutherland looked dangerous on the break with Nikas pulling the strings.
Nicholas Olsen showed pace and enthusiasm when he came on as an 82′ minute substitute, but the elder statesman Michael West showed that you can’t teach experience, outdoing the youngster in a number of one-on-one situations.
Bazi made another save to keep APIA in it, before they went up the other end and scored their equaliser.
Mayora found himself in space at the top of the box and fairly rifled home his finish, sparking wild celebrations among the APIA faithful.
There was still time for Bazi to make another save from Sutherland substitute Jordan Figon in stoppage time. The goalkeeper alone had earned APIA a point, but Sutherland will rue their missed opportunities.
Sharks coach Robbie Stanton was pleased with the overall performance of his side, despite their occasionally poor finishing.
"The performance was great and we dominated long periods of the game," Stanton said.
"We had three one-on-ones; we dropped two points today.
"If you keep the door open, they’ll walk through it."
APIA coach Billy McColl was pleased with the response of his side in the second half and said that he thinks their first win is just around the corner.
"We gave away two goals, but we got back into the game in the second part of the first half," he said.
"I’m very pleased with the second half performance. It’s just about getting the monkey off our back with that first win.
"I’m happy with the progress of the team, we just need that bit of belief."
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 2 (Matthew Mayora 37′, 87′)
Sutherland Sharks 2 (Panny Nikas 8′, Jamie McMaster 12′)
Saturday 12th April, 2014
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Kevin Peddie
Assistant Referees: Craig Fisher and Mitchell Clark
Fourth Official: James Tesoriero
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 21.Andrew Bazi; 2.Travis Oughtred, 3.Jamie Lobb, 4.Bradley Bartels, 5.Michael West (C), 6.Daniel Fogarty, 7.Stephen Kayes, 10.Franco Parisi, 12.Daniel Bragg, 13.David D’Apuzzo (16.Jordan Simpson 78′), 15.Matthew Mayora
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Stefan Giglio (GK), 17.Matthew Castelnuovo, 18.Ali Nasreddine, 20.Blade Richards
Yellow Cards: Daniel Fogarty 47′, Franco Parisi 57′
Red Cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 5.Nicholas Littler, 6.Matthew Gordon, 7. Michael Stuart, 8.Lukas Stergiou (3.Adamos Pierettis 90′), 9.Nathan Elasi, 10.Jamie McMaster (12.Jordan Figon 78′), 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 15.Perry Moustakas, 16.Ethan Galbraith (19.Nicholas. Olsen 82′), 23.Panny Nikas
Substitutes Not Used: 22.Andrew Depta (GK), 2.Jacob Tratt
Yellow Cards: Jamie McMaster 68′, Nick Stavroulakis 85′
Red Cards: Nil
3- Andrew Bazi (ALT)
2- Panny Nikas (Sutherland)
1- Matthew Mayora (ALT)
– By Matthew Lopez, NPL NSW Mens 1 Editor, at Lambert Park