Neil Etheridge and the rest of the Cardiff City FC started their Premier League campaign last August 11th after earning a promotion a few months back.
Signing a three-year deal to stay with the Bluebirds, Etheridge is the main goalkeeper of the Bluebirds in their first Premier League game against AFC Bournemouth.
“There are many ways of getting to the top,” Etheridge told Inquirer.net, a few days before his Premier League debut. “There’s no same blueprint. Obviously, I did it in my own way. It was a tough road like I’ve spoken before, but one thing that was important for me was I believed and those close to me believed in my ability and talent.”
“I helped get Cardiff promoted and I hope and I think I’ll play a larger part in our Premier League campaign,” said Etheridge, who is also the first Southeast Asian to play in the Premier League. “It’s going to be great, interesting and every single match, I am looking forward to the task.”
In the first match of the Bluebirds held at the Dean Court or the Vitality, Stadium in Bournemouth, England last August 11th, Etheridge rejected Callum Wilson’s penalty kick in the 34th minute to stop the Cherries in doubling their lead after Ryan Fraser found the back of the net for the Cherries in the 24th minute.
Etheridge is the first Premier League player to save a penalty goal since Allan McGregor of Hull trampled a penalty kick of a Chelsea player back in 2013.
Unfortunately, the Cherries got the last laugh as the late goal coming from Wilson in the stoppage time sends Cardiff City to its first loss, 2-0.
“It was interesting,” Etheridge expressed in another interview by Inquirer.net after his debut.’’ I tried to keep it normal. I tried not to think about it too much. Of course, there was a lot of nervous energy. It was a good start, but not the result that we wanted.”
“I did not expect a wave (of support),” Etheridge added on the support of fans. “When you go on the phone and on social media, there was a lot of buzz in the Philippines which is fantastic for people who did not know about the game.”
‘’Of course, it’s fantastic. It’s a huge honour to help to push Southeast Asian football – and Asian football as a whole – forward.’’
Etheridge also reflects on his penalty goal save against Wilson and the competition ahead.
“Honestly, at this level, you just decide and make sure you have strong hands and hope for the best,” said Etheridge on his penalty save. “The Premier League is just a whole new level. The pace is quicker. The strikers are more clinical and they don’t need a lot of chances to score which makes the job of goalkeepers even difficult.”
‘’We have that team togetherness and work rate that money can’t buy. I hope that we can learn from what happened over the weekend. Our supporters will play a large part during home games and we look forward to a good start at home,” Etheridge shared.
In their Premier League second match and home debut against Newcastle United last August 18th at the Cardiff City Stadium, the 28-year-old once again made a crucial save in penalty shootout, deflating the shot of Newcastle’s Kenedy, thus allowing both squads to earn one point after the match ended 0-0.
“We felt like we did enough to win the game. But if you don’t win, then it’s important not to lose. Neil [Etheridge] saved us in the end there, so we’ll take our first point in the League and move on, said Cardiff City midfielder Joe Ralls via the team’s official website on the save done by Etheridge.
“I don’t know how he must be feeling after two penalty saves! I’m really happy for him. He makes some good saves in training too, and he’s done well in the first two games, carrying on from last season,’’ Ralls revealed.
Thanks to his impressive performance on his first two games, Etheridge ranked number one in the weekly goalkeepers ranking of sports website Bleacher Report.
Currently in 14th place with two points after earning another goalless draw against Huddersfield, the Bluebird will next face Norwich City on August 29th.
Copa Paulino Alcantara draw held
The draw for the groupings for the inaugural Copa Paulino Alcantara was held last Monday, August 20th.
Two-time PFL champion Ceres-Negros FC was assigned in Group A together with Stallion Laguna and Davao Aguilas.
Group B, on the other hand, will have Kaya-Iloilo FC, JPV Marikina, and Global-Cebu FC.
A round robin format with home and away legs will be used on the group stage. The top two teams in each group after the group stage will advance in a knockout semifinal with the top one of Group A will face the runner-up of Group B and vice versa.
The finals game will be a knockout game. The champion will earn a slot to play in 2019 AFC Cup.
Despite being in a better group, Kaya Iloilo head coach Noel Marcaida is not complacent.
“Obviously in the other bracket (Group A), it’s the group of death. In our group, I think it will be a test of consistency for us. (But) it’s not going to be easy… JPV signed Takumi (Uesato-from Ceres-Negros) and that provide them strength on top as they need a player that score goals for them. For Global, it’s a completely different team as they have got good signings that can help them strengthen their defensive line. That having said, we can’t be complacent in the Copa Paulino Alcantara,” Marcaida told Fox Sports Philippines.
The Copa Paulino Alcantara will kick off on September 1st.