Rookie goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher makes STUNNING reflex save on Champions League debut to help Liverpool through to the last-16 – as Jurgen Klopp leads praise for ‘really good shotstopper’
- Liverpool beat Ajax 1-0 to progress to the Champions League knockout stages
- Tuesday’s victory was largely thanks to rookie goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher
- The Irish rookie made a stunning stop to deny Klass-Jan Huntelaar late on
- Jurgen Klopp hailed the 22-year-old’s ‘natural football-playing ability’ at Anfield
Caoimhin Kelleher made a crucial late save from Klass-Jan Huntelaar to earn Liverpool a win over Ajax and move the Reds into the Champions League knockouts.
The rookie goalkeeper was a surprise starter for Jurgen Klopp’s side with first-choice goalkeeper Alisson out with a hamstring injury, with Tuesday night’s performance the 22-year-old’s first ever match in the Champions League.
Late on in his European debut, Kelleher was forced into a superb reflex stop from experienced striker Huntelaar, who headed Ajax winger Antony’s cross goalwards from the six-yard box.
Rookie goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher was thrust into Liverpool’s starting lineup on Tuesday
The 22-year-old saved from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the 88th minute in Tuesday’s win at Anfield
The save was crucial in the Reds’ 1-0 win at Anfield, with Curtis Jones had earlier putting Liverpool in front, and the result secured the Merseysiders’ route into the last-16 stage with one group game remaining.
Speaking about his debut, Kelleher told BT Sport: ‘It was amazing for me to make my debut. Obviously, the most important thing was to get the win. Thankfully I was able to make a few saves. That’s what I’m there for.
‘It’s quite easy for me because when the players in front of me give the ball back to me, they always make the easy options.’
Jurgen Klopp ran onto the pitch straight after the final whistle to congratulate Kelleher (above)
Before Tuesday night’s match, the 22-year-old was believed to be Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper behind Alisson and Adrian, with the latter filling in for the regular first-choice when he picked up a shoulder injury back in October.
But Liverpool manager Klopp believes Kelleher brings more security with his feet than Adrian and praised the Irishman for a ‘good game’ on his European debut.
Klopp told BT: ‘In this game, we needed the natural football-playing ability of Caoimhin and because he’s a really good shotstopper as well. We made that decision and then you never know.
The Liverpool boss praised the Irishman’s ‘natural football-playing ability’ on Tuesday night
Kelleher deputised ahead of Adrian in place of the injured No 1 Alisson (pictured)
‘All the boys are calm in the moment when they get the information, but there’s a difference to be there on the pitch and I’m really happy with how he dealt with it and how calm he was and how good he was. It was a good game.’
Kelleher’s performance against Ajax also caught the eye of the BT Sport pundits, who believe the Irish shot stopper has earned the trust of Klopp and could feature in future matches for the Premier League champions, starting with Sunday’s clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said: ‘Kelleher’s done himself no harm and given the manager something to think about.All you want to do is make the manager think, “I can trust him.”‘