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Etheridge vows to return stronger after catastrophic home defeat to Uzbekistan

‘I’m professional. You have to put every bad performance behind you. I’m looking forward to be able to move one to next month to become better’

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Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge aims to recover from his goalkeeping howler that led to the Philippines’ 5-1 defeat to Uzbekistan in the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup last September 8 at the Philippine Sports Stadium. The defeat brought the Azkals down to third place in a five-team second-round qualifiers group, with an inferior goal difference to Uzbekistan who share the same number of points at six apiece.

Odil Akhmedov’s shot was on target but seems insufficient in bothering the Walsall FC goalkeeper. However, slippery conditions and a lapse in judgement badly exposed Etheridge early on. What looked like a routine stop ended as a calamitous blunder that gave the visiting team the lead. “First goal is obviously an individual mistake on my behalf,” admitted Etheridge who was quick to add that it was one of those days where his game was below par. Not long after going 1-0 down, the Azkals were further punished by the Uzbek’s clinical finishing in front of goal. Shirdor Rashidov and Igor Sergeev delivered three of their next four goals, with the remainder also belonging to Akhmedov. Overall, the Central Asians produced seven shots on target, with Etheridge managing to get his hands on two of those. In all instances the Uzbeks scored, the Azkals number one was well beaten by fine marksmanship displayed by the players in the team ranked nearly 50 places above the Azkals.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Etheridge vows to return stronger after catastrophic home defeat to Uzbekistan News

The 25-year-old goalkeeper thinks the quality of their opponent was reflected by the way the four other goals were scored in the match. “We look at their team and it’s a very strong team that plays a majority of their football in Europe and in top leagues in Asia and they’re a fantastic team. Everything they hit today seems to probably get in and they’re having one of those days,” Etheridge assessed. Mistakes committed defensively by the hosts, nonetheless, aided the Uzbeks in those moments. Hence, the man between the sticks is not convinced that the 5-1 score line speaks a lot about the gulf between them and the Uzbeks.

Despite the loss, Etheridge believes this recent loss can do wonders for them in the long run. “We’ve got a very hard two games coming up and for us, we can work on our weaknesses,” he pointed out. Those games are both set to be played away from home with trips to North Korea and Bahrain possibly the most crucial stage of the Azkals’ bid to qualify for the Asian Cup at the very least. Aware of a daunting task to add more points to their tally, Etheridge is eager for what lies ahead instead of lamenting the disastrous result obtained against Uzbekistan. “I’m professional. You have to put every bad performance behind you. I’m looking forward to be able to move one to next month to become better,” he voiced with conviction. —LGT

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