Etheridge’s time has come
From struggling to find a club four years ago, to toiling in the third division of English football for a couple of years and a stellar season in the Championship, Filipino international Neil Etheridge is now making a strong case as one of the best goalkeepers in the world’s most competitive football league.
Etheridge delivered another heroic performance as Welsh side Cardiff City stunned 2016 English Premier League champions Leicester City, 1-0, at King Power Stadium on Saturday night for its first away win of the season in the EPL.
Omitted from the Philippines’ Asian Cup-bound squad so he can focus on his club commitments, the 28-year-old who traces his roots in Tarlac proved his worth with six big saves that kept Cardiff in the match against a squad that just beat Chelsea and Manchester City during the past two weeks.
Etheridge’s biggest stop came with 20 minutes remaining when he denied James Madisson’s penalty kick, before teammate Sol Bamba cleared the rebound. Victor Camarasa then struck the winner for Cardiff in second half stoppage time, boosting the Welsh side to four points clear off the relegation zone.
Cardiff has 18 points for a tie of 16th spot. The bottom three clubs in the EPL by the end of the season all go down to the Championship, which Cardiff came from a season ago.
“It’s a massive win,” Etheridge, who has 62 appearances for the Philippines, told the Inquirer after the match. “A first win on the road and what a feeling to keep a clean sheet. The team was amazing.”
Playing his first season in the EPL, Etheridge has shown he belongs in the world’s most prestigious league. He now leads the Premier League with most saves at 78, although Cardiff has conceded the second most number of goals with 38 from 20 matches.
His three penalty saves this season is also the most by any goalkeeper in the EPL.
“Neil’s improving all the time,” Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock said.
Etheridge’s exploits was a major talking point on the Match of the Day of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the longest-running football show in the world, with host and former England international Gary Lineker joking that Warnock should thank Azkals coach Sven Goran Eriksson for not taking Etheridge to the Asian Cup.
“He was exceptional tonight,” Lineker added.
Former England international Danny Murphy, who is one of the analysts on MOTD, said Etheridge has shown that he is now used to the demands of playing in the EPL.
Murphy and Etheridge were teammates in Fulham’s first team from 2008 to 2012.
“He’s learned a lot from Mark Schwarzer when he started at Fulham,” said Murphy. “I’m sure he wanted to play [in the Asian Cup], but for Cardiff there will be times in games that they will be under pressure and they need their goalkeeper to keep them in the game. He’s (Etheridge) very vocal and very confident and is a good physical presence.”
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