Caoimhin Kelleher will line out for Liverpool in Sunday's EFL Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley. [Inpho/Morgan Treacy]

Kelleher wins praise from Klopp, van Dijk for stint in Reds goal

On Wednesday evening, for the second time in his current stint as a replacement for Liverpool’s first-choice Brazilian goalkeeper Allison, Caoimhin Kelleher conceded a goal to a Republic of Ireland colleague. A 12th minute attack from visitors Luton resulted in an initial save, but the ball spun in front of Chiedozie Ogbene who calmly headed in, silencing the Anfield faithful for a while. The weekend before last, Sheffield United’s Dara O’Shea headed from a corner kick past the Cork man for his Premier League debut.

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But Liverpool, with a nine-man injury list at last count, are expressing confidence in Kelleher, particularly following his strong performance last Saturday in the away 5-1 win at Brentford.  And the Reds ended up easy 4-1 winners against Luton at Anfield last night after a strong second-half, and won that game against Sheffield by 3-1. 

After Saturday’s win, manager Jurgen Klopp said, ‘‘He was outstanding. I don’t know exactly, to be honest, who is the number-one goalkeeper in Ireland, but if they have a better goalkeeper than him I have to say, respect. Caoimhin is outstanding and this season we have given him more games than he had previously. It’s well deserved because we need him, and we need him with rhythm and now the situation around Ali shows that it makes absolutely sense. We will see how long Ali is out, but Caoimhin is exceptional. Today he was wow. It was an A-plus performance.’’ 

“I always said that he is a world-class goalkeeper,” captain Virgil Van Dijk said following Saturday “It is very difficult to be a second ’keeper but there is no shame in being second goalkeeper to one of, if not the best goalkeeper in the world.

“He has to step up now and everyone needs a bit of confidence and everyone should give him the confidence that he will do the job. Everyone needs a bit of love from the outside.

“Hopefully Saturday will help him carry on and take that confidence into the next game.”

Kelleher will line out in Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley next Sunday. England’s 3rd trophy, known traditionally as the League Cup, was won by Liverpool against the same opposition in 2022, after Kelleher scored the winning penalty in a lengthy shootout. 

The game was 0-0 after 120 minutes and then 10-10 in the shootout when Chelsea ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed and his opposite number Kelleher converted against the Spaniard. 

As to Klopp’s question who is number one in Ireland, Kelleher has only 11 Irish caps, current first choice Gavin Bazunu of Southampton now has 20 caps. However with more game time, the Cork man will likely challenge seriously for first-choice consideration in up-coming games.