MANILA, Philippines – Neil Etheridge proved to be the key to the Azkals' goalless draw, 0-0, to China in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Tuesday, October 15, at the Panaa-ad Park and Stadium in Bacolod.
The Cardiff City Filipino international capped off his brilliant return to the national team as he tipped a crucial shot on target by Hao Junmin over the bar during added time (90+1'), allowing the Philippine team to hold powerhouse China to a draw.
The Philippines and China picked up one point each and the Azkals moved up to 3rd place with 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss to rack up a total of 4 points.
China remains on top of Group A with 7 points off two wins and 1 draw to remain on track in its bid to advance to the third round of qualifiers and to gain an automatic berth to the Asian Cup.
Wu Lei, who was the source of the Philippines' heartbreak during the 2019 Asian Cup, was challenged this time by Etheridge's prowess as the Chinese failed to get the ball to the back of the net.
Last January, Wu Lei scored a brace that was crucial to China's 3-0 win over the Azkals in the 2019 Asian Cup.
Despite coming out more threatening early in the game, the Chinese struggled to connect their passes and the Azkals' defense managed to lock down their aggressive forwards.
This is the third time the Azkals faced China this year as the Nationals faced Team Dragon in an international friendly last June. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.