Cedelf P Tupas
JAKARTA—Neil Etheridge was in a jovial mood yesterday, playing music in the team bus and joking around with teammates.
It was a far cry from the Etheridge that turned up in the locker room after the match the night before.
Etheridge was teary eyed as he admitted making the mistake that led to the goal that gave Indonesia a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals.
“It was a normal ball and I was about to get it, then I slipped while trying to reach for it,” said Etheridge. “Unfortunately, that mistake cost us a goal.”
“More than myself, I felt I let the team down,” added the back-up goalkeeper with Fulham in the English Premiere League.
The 6-foot-3 Etheridge, whose mother Melinda Dula is from Tarlac, has been a pillar of strength for the Philippines in this tournament and that goal from Gonzales was just the second he conceded in four games in the tournament.
Etheridge actually recovered from that blunder, jumping out to collect crosses and denying what could have been a clear path for Indonesian striker Bambang Pamungkas to double the advantage in the 80th minute.
The Philippines’ coach Simon McMenemy came to Etheridge’s rescue, saying he should not be judged based on his lone mistake in the game.
“What we fail to remember is Neil is still only 20,” said McMenemy. “He’s in tears in the dressing room because he feels that he let the team down—but we tend to forget the number of times that he has saved the team.”
“He’s been incredible for us. He has such a great presence and it is very, very difficult to put the ball past him. He’s very disappointed that his mistake led to a goal, but he will learn from this and he’ll be back for the next game.”
Etheridge said the mistake will only make him stronger.
“I still have a lot of years ahead of me,” he said. “I know there will be a lot of big matches and sometimes I will make mistakes. But I’ll come back stronger on Sunday.”
Saturday, 18 December 2010
Cedelf P Tupas