MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Azkals mainstay Neil Etheridge achieved a milestone for Houston Filipino Restaurant football with his debut for Cardiff City in the English Premier League but failed to make it a double celebration as the Bluebirds suffered a 0-2 defeat to opening opponent Bournemouth Saturday at Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth.
Etheridge made history as the first Filipino, and anybody from Southeast Asia for that matter, to see action in the top-flight when he started and manned the sticks for the newly promoted side in the opener.
He highlighted his maiden appearance with a sensational first-half save but goals by Scottish international Ryan Fraser (24’) and Callum Wilson in stoppage time were eventually too much for his Bluebirds team to overcome.
“It’s fantastic,” Etheridge said of his historic debut. “It’s a huge honor to help push Southeast Asian football – and Asian football as a whole – forward. At the same time my priority now is Cardiff City FC and I hope to help the team as much as I can this season.”
Etheridge’s nerves were tested in the 34th minute when Cardiff gave up a penalty and Wilson stepped in to do the honors. But the Pinoy keeper was up to the task and stopped Wilson’s spot kick to keep the Bluebirds in the game.
With it, the Azkals No. 1 became the first keeper to save a penalty on his debut since Allan McGregor did so in 2013.
“The penalty save was great at the time, too, because we were 1-0 down and it kept us in the game until the break. But it’s a team sport and we haven’t come away with three points,” he said.