Football: Etheridge, Azkals draw China in stunning qualifying result


Posted at Oct 15 2019 10:00 PM | Updated as of Oct 16 2019 08:01 AM

Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was on point against China on Tuesday. Glyn Kirk, AFP/file

(UPDATE) The Philippines men's national football team forced China to a goal-less draw in a joint-qualifying match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup in Bacolod on Tuesday.

Led by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the Filipinos stood their ground against the Group A leader at Panaad Stadium, playing stout defense and finding relief in the visitors' missed attempts at goal.

Etheridge's presence was made most valuable in stoppage time when, in what was China's best look at the net, the former Premier League keeper slapped away the ball that had a clear target line.

"It's a bit of a blur to be honest. It's tough," the Cardiff City keeper when asked about the save on what could have been a Hao Junmin goal and a heartbreaking defeat for the Azkals.

"This is the first time I've played in Panaad in a long time. It's hot and sweaty. Basically, it's not about me, it's not about the save, it's about the team and everything that has gone on this week, to have a good result -- not a great result -- but a good result against China."

The Azkals had numerous chances to get on the board, too, but fell short.

Coach Scott Cooper and his team, ranked No. 117 in the world, are satisfied to come away a point, though, doing it especially against a team 59 places higher than they are in the world rankings.

"I think you used the two words perfectly -- team performance," Etheridge said.

"Every player from the bench throughout the week has been unbelievable.

"Everyone played their part throughout the week. Obviously we didn't get the win, but I think it's a very well-deserved point at home."

The Philippines remains in third place in Group A, with 4 points on a win, a draw and a loss, behind No. 2 Syria, which beat the Azkals in their previous match at Panaad.

China stayed in first with 7 points, thanks to a pair of routs against the Maldives and Guam.

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