Azkals 'keeper Neil Etheridge admits early blunder set tone for Uzbeks' five-goal romp
Neil Etheridge accepted the blame after conceding an early goal. Jaime Campos

BOCAUE, Bulacan – Neil Etheridge owned up to his early error that put the Philippines on the back foot early on the way to a disappointing 5-1 loss to Uzbekistan in their World Cup Qualifying match on Tuesday night.

The Azkals starting goalkeeper conceded the opening goal 48 seconds into the match when Odil Akhmedov’s shot from outside the box slipped past his hands and between his legs that stunned the crowd and sparked the rout.

“It’s an individual mistake that happens as a goalkeeper and happens as football players,” the 6-foot-3 Etheridge admitted after the game.

[See Disaster in the rain as five-star Uzbeks thump Azkals]

But the 25-year-old net-minder, who started ahead of Roland Muller and Patrick Deyto, took the blunder in stride.

“It doesn’t affect me and I’ll move on and become stronger for it,” the 25-year-old booter said.

Etheridge, though, admitted the stunning goal gave the 76th-ranked Uzbeks the psychological edge the rest of the way.

“It’s always an uphill struggle once you go one-nil behind and such so early in the game,” he said. “They’re a fantastic team. We have to hold our hands up.”

“But do I believe they are four goals better than us? I don’t believe they are,” Etheridge, who plays his club football for third-tier English side Walsall, was quick to add.

“But at the same time, everything they hit seemed to go in and they were having those days.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos