BACOLOD City – The Philippine men’s football team forced heavily-favored China to a scoreless draw in the joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualification phase at the Panaad Park and Stadium here.
Goal keeper Neil Etheridge was on point on defense for the Azkals from start to finish. He thwarted several shot attempts from the continental powerhouse on Tuesday night to split the points.
Etheridge has been busy since the opening whistle. He denied strikes from Wu Xi, Yang Xu and Ai Kesen.
He also survived shot attempts from Spanish league veteran Wu Lei.
Chinese keeper Yan Junling, on the other hand, had a relatively easy first 45 minutes as shots from Azkals’ Daisuke Sato, Mark Hartmann, and Martin Steuble failed to hit the target.
The Chinese became aggressive in the second half. They had multiple shots to break the tie but all of the attempts were foiled by Etheridge.
Wu had a chance to take the lead for China but misfired point blank try.
“Every player from the bench throughout the week has been unbelievable. My team talk before the game was, ‘There are 11 players on the field. We’ve earned the shirt (and) there are nine players begging to get on the field,,” Etheridge said.
“Obviously we didn’t get the win but I think it was a well-deserved point at home,” added the long-time national men’s football team goal keeper who also plays for Cardiff City in the English Premier League.
The Philippines remain in third place in Group A, with four points on a win, a draw and a loss.
China stayed in first with seven points./PN