PH's Neil Etheridge makes Fulham debut in Europa League tiff | Inquirer Sports

PH’s Neil Etheridge makes Fulham debut in Europa League tiff

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 09:14 PM December 15, 2011

Neil Etheridge (left, in green) catches the ball as he made his debut in the prestigious English Premier league.

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge made history Wednesday night when he saw action for Fulham in a 2-2 draw with Danish club Odense in a UEFA Europa League group stage game in London.

The 21-year-old who traces his roots in Tarlac became the first Filipino to play for a team in the English Premier League—and possibly the first Southeast Asian to achieve the feat.

The closest involvement by Southeast Asian players with a Premier League side in recent years was when Manchester City signed three Thai players for a trial following the takeover of the club by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2007, but the deal failed to progress.

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“For me this is a dream come true,” Etheridge said in e-mail to the Inquirer. “At my age, I didn’t think it would happen, but I know this season I have worked hard and I can feel myself progressively gaining confidence and ability.”

But Etheridge’s debut ended in heartbreak as the draw sent Fulham crashing out of the competition.

Etheridge, who has 28 appearances for the national team, conceded a goal off a 20-yard free kick of Hans Endreasen early in the second half—an eerie flashback of the goals scored by Myanmar and Sri Lanka against him in the AFC Challenge Cup and World Cup Qualifying, respectively.

The Filipino-British standout did produce two excellent saves, including a stop on Espen Ruud’s low shot in the 48th minute, and was steady in a performance hailed by the BBC sport website.

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But he was helpless defending a header by Djiby Fall for the equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time.

“This one game won’t stop me working hard,” said Etheridge, who replaced Australian international Mark Schwarzer in the starting lineup.

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Schwarzer will be sidelined for up to six weeks because of a compression injury on his thoracic spine.

“Mark (Schwarzer) has taught me that there’s always another goal you can reach always another mountain to climb so for me this is just the start but I am very thankful for this opportunity,” Etheridge said.

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TAGS: English Premiere League, EPL, Fulham FC, Mark Schwarzer, Neil Etheridge, Sports, UEFA Europa League

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