FILIPINO pride swelled on Wednesday (early Thursday in Manila) when Neil Etheridge stood as the last line of defense for Walsall FC in an anticipated English League Cup match against Chelsea at Banks Stadium.
The Azkals goalkeeper played the entire match, making some early saves for his third-tier club as he tried to stand his ground against the strikers of one of the world’s best clubs and reigning English Premier League champions.
Etheridge denied Colombian striker Radamel Falcao two minutes into the match, before blocking Brazil’s Ramires two minutes later, only to concede in the 11th minute as the Saddlers eventually lost, 4-1, to get eliminated after reaching the third round.
It was probably the biggest match yet in the pro career of the 25-year-old Filipino-British netminder, who made his debut for Fulham in a Europa League match against Danish side Odense Boldklub in 2012.
The match held additional meaning for Etheridge, who started his youth career at Chelsea in 2003 before transferring to Fulham three years later.
The 6-foot-2 ‘keeper, who saw action in the Azkals’ disappointing 5-1 loss to Uzbekistan in the World Cup qualifiers two weeks ago, signed a two-year contract with Walsall, which plays in League One, last July.