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Etheridge shows his class in China PR shut-out

Bacolod City: Neil Etheridge is glad to have played his part as Philippines held China PR to a 0-0 draw in their Asian Qualifiers Group A tie on Tuesday.

Marcello Lippi's men came into the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying tie as firm favourites - having plundered 12 goals without reply in their earlier two matches - but found Etheridge-inspired Philippines impossible to crack.

The point is a boost to the Azkals qualifying hopes, having opened their campaign with a 5-2 defeat to Syria before rebounding to beat Guam 4-1 in the September fixtures, taking them to third in the group standings.

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Man-of-the-Match Etheridge was a calming factor as Elkeson and Wu Lei-powered China searched for a breakthrough at the Panaad Stadium.

The Cardiff City custodian, while glad to have played a key role, said the result was a team effort.

“I think it wasn’t just myself, but everyone on the team did extremely well today,” said Etheridge in post-match comments to the media.

MD4 - Group A: Philippines vs China PR

His big-match experience, however, certainly helped calm a backline that came under constant pressure from China.

“Some of the players looked up to me on how I was going to deal with situations. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to play at the highest level in the world. But the game today was proving to the supporters and the coach that I deserve to be in the starting 11.”

Etheridge had to be on his toes throughout the 90 minutes as China peppered his box with attempts and crosses and the 29-year-old showed his quality almost at the end when he denied China captain Hang Junmin from inside the area.

While excited to have stopped China from scoring, Etheridge believes Philippines are capable of much more.

“We went out there and we had a game plan,” said Etheridge. “Going toe to toe against China was always going to be tough and it’s a great result for us, but I still feel we have more to give.”

Up next for Philippines will be Maldives away on November 14 before they travel to play Syria - who face China on Matchday Five - in Dubai four days later.

Photos: Philippines Football Federation

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