Out of it all, Neil Etheridge stays with team
KATHMANDU—Done for the tournament because of a needless red card, Neil Etheridge could have taken the next flight out of this Nepalese capital, returned to London and resumed training with his club Fulham.
But the Fil-British goalkeeper, who was earlier doubtful to suit up in the tournament because of club commitments, is staying on in the Azkals camp even if he will be reduced to a spectator when his back-up Eduard Sacapano takes over on goal for the third-place duel against Palestine on Monday at the Dashrath Stadium.
“It will be disappointing to watch it from the sidelines, but I will give the team my full support and attention on Monday,” said Etheridge, who was sent off in the final minutes of the 1-2 semifinal loss to Turkmenistan for kicking striker Gahryman Chonkayev just after the goalkeeper cleared the ball.
The play wasn’t initially seen by Korean referee Ko Hyung-jin, who needed the opinion of the linesmen before showing Etheridge the red card.
“Obviously my lack of professionalism at the end of the game was unlike me,” said Etheridge, who remembers only one other red card while he was still playing at youth level.
“It was very unprofessional so I have to take responsibility for my actions. It was the heat of the moment and I probably deserved what I got.”
The 6-foot-3 stopper cut a frustrating figure as he removed his gloves, took off his jersey and gave it to teammate Carli de Murga who finished the match on goal.
Etheridge then walked petulantly to the changing room, done for the tournament where he sparkled with numerous brilliant saves and command of one of the most solid defenses in the eight-nation final.
His string of saves against North Korea, including a penalty stop on one of the tournament’s overall leading scorers Pak Song Chol, kept the Azkals in the thick of the fight until the second half.
Before he was sent off, Etheridge had to be alert on more than two occassions to deny Turkmenistan an equalizer.
“We live and learn and we move forward,” said Etheridge, who vowed to make amends when the Azkals vie in a series of friendlies as well as the Suzuki Cup Asean Championships late this year.
“As disappointing as it is for players knowing that this would have been our chance to get to the final and all, we’ve made such big progress.”
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