Shortly after Liverpool defeated Arsenal in the semi-final of the Carabao League Cup, manager Jürgen Klopp committed to starting his backup keeper, Caoimhín Kelleher, in the final. The young Irishman had been instrumental in earning the Reds their place, and Klopp wanted to reward him for his efforts.
It was the right decision.
Kelleher was immense in tonight’s penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in the League Cup Final. It was a bizarre match that saw both Kelleher and his counterpart, Édouard Mendy, stand on their heads to miraculously keep the match scoreless after 120 minutes despite numerous chances and disallowed goals.
But, while Mendy was subbed for Kepa Arrizabalaga at the death of extra time because of Kepa’s history of success against PK’s, Kelleher went on to be the hero, though not in the way keepers are typically heroes in a shootout. With both sides putting on a shooting clinic, Kelleher was not able to make any saves despite coming very close several times. Instead, his heroics came when he scored the kick that proved to be the winner.
“It’s a mad one. I thought I saved one, I didn’t,” Kelleher said in his post-match interview with Sky Sports.
“I got close to a few, and then when it came down to me I didn’t even think I scored the winning penalty - I forgot I scored the winning one. All the penalties from the lads were class, so just happy to score.”
When asked if he channeled his teenage days as an outfield player on his spot-kick, Kelleher declined to take much credit.
“I think it was more hit and hope,” he admitted with a laugh.
Liverpool’s newest cup-winning keeper also wrapped up his interview by revealing what was said in a quick post-match chat with Klopp.
“He just said ‘well done for scoring the winning penalty.’ So obviously there is a wall at Liverpool with all the goalies who have won cups, and he said ‘now is your chance, you can go on that.’”