Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher eager to kick on after impressive European debut

Liverpool’s rookie goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher hopes his impressive European debut has done enough to earn him a first Premier League start.

The 22-year-old did not put a foot wrong in the 1-0 win over Ajax which guaranteed the Reds top spot in their Champions League group with a match to spare.

Kelleher, with just four domestic cup appearances behind him last season, combined dependability with moments of outstanding quality – highlighted by his 88th-minute save from veteran goalscorer Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

Kelleher's late save from Klaas Jan Huntelaar helped guarantee qualification as group winners
Kelleher's late save from Klaas Jan Huntelaar helped guarantee qualification as group winners

With a hamstring problem already ruling out Alisson Becker of Sunday’s visit of Wolves and potentially the following weekend’s trip to Fulham – he would not have been considered for next Wednesday’s dead rubber against Midtjylland – there is a key vacancy to be filled.

Jurgen Klopp’s preference for Kelleher over established second choice Adrian was based on the Irishman’s footballing ability, with the manager stressing it was a ‘horses for courses’ selection.

But, having taken his chance, the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international hopes he is now the man in possession.

“I’m just working hard every day in training, preparing myself. I’m always thinking if a chance does come, I’ll have to be ready for it,” he told the club’s website.

“So that’s why I work every day and thankfully all that work did pay off.

“That’s all I can do. When I get my opportunity, I just need to take it. I think I’ve done well, so hopefully I can push on and if I get another opportunity, just take it again.”

After the vote of confidence from Klopp, Kelleher received a pre-match message of support from both Alisson and Adrian and a huge bear hug from his manager at the final whistle.

“I didn’t see Ali but I got a text before the game just to tell me good luck. Adrian was a really great support,” he added.

“He told me, ‘I’m with you 100 per cent and supporting you no matter what’. To get that from him was really kind of him.”

On Klopp’s post-match celebration after he made a beeline for his goalkeeper, Kelleher, who conceded seven against Manchester City’s under-23s on Saturday, said: “Of course, it was a nice moment for him to come to me and to get an embrace.

“He just said it’s fully deserved, so it was a nice moment for me.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp could not hide his delight at Kelleher's performance
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp could not hide his delight at Kelleher's performance

The plaudits continued to flood in with captain Jordan Henderson full of praise for the Champions League debutant.

“Unbelievable, isn’t he? Outstanding, some of the saves he made, important saves,” the midfielder said.

“His distribution was excellent, coming out and commanding his area. I thought he was outstanding and a real plus for us.”

Liverpool now have a five-day break before their next match, during which time Klopp will be hoping for some good news on the injury front after both Henderson (back) and Andy Robertson (ankle) played on through knocks.

Job done. Into the knockouts. Massive credit to the young lads in the side tonight. Some big performances!

— Jordan Henderson (@JHenderson) December 1, 2020

There is also a chance midfielder Naby Keita (hamstring) could be back while defender Trent Alexander-Arnold (calf) is not far away from a return.

“That’s a big gap for us, not a small one,” Henderson added.

“We’ve got to use that the best we can, recover and get ready for a tough game because Wolves are a good side.

“They got a big win the other day against Arsenal, so they’ll be right up for it. It’s another tough game for us but we’ll recover and get ready for that one.”