CARDIFF City’s star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to play in the English Premier League, is making his case that he belongs alongside the big boys of football.

Early at this stage of the prem, he has kept two clean sheets, conceded only five goals, and pulled off magnificent, highlight-reel penalty saves after four matches.

Etheridge’s performance has caught the attention of both fans and pundits alike that he’s gotten nominations for the EA Sports and the Professional Footballers Association Player of the Month awards. Etheridge is also featured on a Fantasy Premier League video on the EPL website.

To illustrate how impressive Etheridge’s performance is, out of the 20 clubs in the EPL, only five clubs have conceded fewer goals than Cardiff, alongside Wolves, Bournemouth and Leicester City: Liverpool (1 goal against), Chelsee (3), Watford (3), Manchester City (3), all of which are in the top four of the table, and Southampton (4). The rest of the clubs, in contrast, are leaking goals.

Unfortunately, clubs don’t win games just by stopping goals. So unless Cardiff’s strikers start scoring -- and winning -- the club’s stint in top flight football will be shortlived. Cardiff’s performance against Arsenal, though, reveals what the club is capable of against the big clubs and everyone else.

Despite Cardiff’s 3-2 loss, scoring two against the likes of Arsenal is no mean feat, especially if it’s the club’s first in the current league. Cardiff needs only to sustain its momentum to survive and make a return next season. With a dependable Etheridge between the sticks, that probabality can only get higher.

Now that Etheridge has stood shoulder to shoulder with football’s elite, his game can only improve with the quality of opposition he’ll be facing week in and out for the rest of the season.

And this bodes well for another set of teammates of his thousands of miles away here in the Philippines. Having a goalkeeper plying his trade in one of the world’s top leagues can only mean positives for the Azkals as they meet Asia’s toughest in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup this January.

Etheridge not only will serve as an intimidating defensive force, he will be a source of pride and inspiration among his teammates and the thousands of Filipino fans in the United Arab Emirates who are expected to support the team in Asia’s biggest football tournament.

And if anything, Etheridge now has more reason to perform his best, even better.