Jürgen Klopp has always liked giving his backup and academy players a chance to shine in England’s domestic cup competitions, so it was no surprise that he gave backup keeper Caoimhín Kelleher the starting nod in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Arsenal last night.
While he wasn’t called on much, the young Irishman did make a fantastic save to deny Alexandre Lacazette on a free kick in the sixth minute. It kept the match scoreless, and Liverpool quickly took control. They would get on the board 13 minutes later thanks to Diogo Jota and never really look in much danger of relinquishing the lead.
Kelleher spoke with the Liverpool FC website after the match and gave his thoughts on a very strong performance and the early save that prevented his side from having to dig their way out of an early hole.
“Obviously I’m really happy when I can make saves to keep the team in it and keep us in with a chance,” admitted Kelleher. “That save, it was an important moment to keep us at 0-0 and Jots [Jota] goes and scores for us. I was really happy to make that save.
“I thought in the first half we played some really good football and obviously we got the goal, a great Jots goal. Second half they came at us a bit more like we thought they would and we defended well when we had to and obviously then Jots got another great goal which kind of settled it for us.”
The victory means Liverpool will face Chelsea in the final at Wembley Stadium next month, and Kelleher was very excited at the prospect of winning another trophy.
“It’s another final and a final is a final. We are buzzing… this club obviously wants to win trophies and it’s a chance to win another trophy. So we will go there, give it everything we have, and hopefully we can win.”
Though one would normally expect to see starting keeper Alisson Becker get the nod for a final, Klopp made a point of saying the League Cup is Kelleher’s competition in the lead-up to yesterday’s match. So, there is a real possibility the 23-year-old will get the opportunity to play in his first final.
Asked about his chances to be in the lineup to face Chelsea, Kelleher gave the expected, professional answer, but it’s hard to imagine he’s not dying to get the start.
“Hopefully, but we’ll see. There’s a few weeks now until the final so I’ll keep training hard and see what happens and see if I get the nod.”