Liverpool advanced to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win against MK Dons on Wednesday night, with goals from James Milner and youngster Ki-Jana Hoever ensuring the club’s passage into the next round.
Kelleher impresses in Carabao Cup opener
Jurgen Klopp fielded a youthful team, giving debuts to the likes of 16-year-old Harvey Elliott, Rhian Brewster and Curtis Jones among others. All three players have impressed in the youth setup and are highly regarded by all at Anfield, with Wednesday’s opportunity a show of faith from the manager. A night when such players dually delivered, it reflected the power of the domestic cups as the teens made good of their opportunity to impress in the first-team setup.
One such player to do just that was 20-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher, who made a string of late saves to prevent a frantic finish at Stadium MK as the home side pilled on the pressure. The Irishman was alert to Jordan Bowery’s fierce strike from 20-yards just past the 70-minute mark before producing a stunning reaction save to deny Bowery again minutes later.
The Republic of Ireland Under-21’s international spoke of his pride at making his debut for the club after the match. “It was an unbelievable night for me making my debut,” he said to the club’s official site. “I can’t sum it up in words really, it’s just unbelievable. To play for Liverpool for the first time was unbelievable.”
“It gives me motivation to go and do it again and keep playing.”
Reflecting on his point blank save against Bowery, Kelleher said: “I was just in the right position when he was heading the ball and if it hits you it hits you, so it was a good save but you take it as it comes.”
Mixture of youth and experience a helping factor
The youngster was also quick to touch on the importance of senior figures within the squad on Wednesday night. James Milner, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain made up some of the more experienced players in the starting eleven, and Klopp’s blend of youth and seniority helped Kelleher on his debut.
“It really helps someone like me who is making their first start,” he said. “It calms you and they talk to you a lot and stuff so it gives me a lot of confidence to go and play my normal game.”
Kelleher also revealed that Alisson Becker had given him some words of encouragement in the build-up to the match, with the Brazilian offering his support as he continues to recover from an early season injury.
“I spoke to him Tuesday at Melwood and he just wished me luck and everything. It was very nice of him to say that and he said he would be watching and supporting me.”
Liverpool face Arsenal in the next round of the Carabao Cup and with several promising performances across the park against MK Dons, Klopp could well opt to give the youngsters another chance on centre stage.