Caoimhin Kelleher was one of Liverpool’s heroes during the Carabao Cup win over Chelsea on Sunday evening.
While Edouard Mendy was at the top of his game with a series of outrageous saves under the Wembley arch, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Kelleher was similarly watertight at the opposite end.
And although his thunderous penalty just moments before Kepa Arrizabalaga’s match-deciding miss will take the headlines, there was more to Kelleher’s performance than just an unexpected spot-kick.
Kelleher shines in Carabao Cup final
With a clean sheet across 120 minutes against the European champions, the 23-year-old showed his quality with four saves and the joint-highest SofaScore match rating out of either team’s starters.
All in all, it was a thoroughly convincing vindication that Jurgen Klopp was right to stick by Kelleher, who had played in Liverpool‘s previous Carabao Cup games, ahead of regular number one Alisson Becker.
The managerial quandary of whether or not to keep your cup goalkeeper as your cup goalkeeper during finals has long been a predicament with different coaches having varying views on the matter.
Klopp getting behind Kelleher
Besides, it’s not hard to imagine many a top-class manager putting an arm around Kelleher’s shoulder and telling him that he’d been dropped for the superior goalkeeper – and, well, you’d understand to an extent.
However, not Klopp, because he admirably stuck by Liverpool’s number two in a decision that he broke down in fabulously honest and human style when asked about it in his post-match interviews.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Liverpool boss brilliantly admitted that he parked his role as a football coach to the side for a second and embraced sentimentality by believing in the young Irishman.
Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea (11-10) Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Klopp’s heartfelt interview answer
Klopp said after the game: “Even in professional football there should be space for some sentiment. Caoimhin Kelleher is a young boy, plays in all the competition, what do I do?
“I am two things, a professional manager and a human being and the human being won. He deserves it.
“At the training centre we have a wall that all goalkeepers are on who won something and Caoimhin can go on it – that’s how it should be – absolutely great.”
🗣 "I am two things a professional football manager and a human being and a human being won."— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 27, 2022
Jurgen Klopp on why he decided to stick with Caoimhin Kelleher in goal for the final pic.twitter.com/tlfWeUp9HH
Take a bow, Kelleher
More power to you, Jurgen, more power to you.
And boy has Kelleher earned his place on the wall of winners because there was absolutely no tokenism involved in his selection, but rather an extension of trust and belief after so many top, top displays.
Kelleher certainly isn’t up to the standard of Alisson – barely anyone is – and he might never be, but he’s got all the qualities that you want in a number two goalkeeper when you need them to stand up and be counted.
The simple fact of the matter is that the academy graduate is a reliable pair of hands between the sticks, rising to new challenges in the Premier League, Champions League and beyond when called upon.
And now, he’s a Liverpool hero forever. Top stuff, Caoimhin.