NEIL Etheridge believes the Philippine men’s football team regained its never-say-die reputation after a pulling off a pulsating 3-2 victory over North Korea in their last game in the World Cup/Asian Cup second-round qualifying on Tuesday night.
Just a few days after arriving from long flight from Tashkent where they put up a gallant stand in a 1-0 loss to top seed Uzbekistan, the Azkals showed the same relentlessness against another higher-ranked squad to finally get rewarded with a victory on home soil.
“We were extremely tired; there’s been a lot of traveling,” said Etheridge, whose team overcame a one-goal deficit most of the second half with two goals in a span of five minutes late in the match.
“The Uzbekistan game took majority of the energy out of the players and it just shows that we’ve got great stamina, great fight, and we’ll never say no and we’ll keeping working ‘til the last minute.”
Etheridge was once again a rock as the last line of defense with plenty of rejections that kept the North Koreans at bay early in the first half.
The Filipino-British goalkeeper admitted the Azkals would’ve been in a better position had they protected their early lead when Misagh Bahadoran put the team up two minutes before first-half stoppage time.
Good thing, the Filipino booters conjured their resilience in the nick of time to the delight of the home crowd.
“I think we were naïve after we scored the first goal,” Etheridge said. “We dropped too deep and got into a comfort zone after forty-five minutes. Maybe going into the second half, it would’ve been different if we were one-nil up.”
“But the last two goals were fantastic,” he was quick to add. “It shows how much we’ve worked on the training field. Coaches have done a fantastic job.”