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'Just try to be the hero' - Kelleher reflects on wild Anfield debut

The 20-year-old Irish goalkeeper conceded five times against Arsenal yet still ended the night as the toast of Anfield.

Caoimhin Kelleher prepares for a penalty shootout at Anfield.
Caoimhin Kelleher prepares for a penalty shootout at Anfield.
Image: Jon Super

TO SUM UP Anfield’s latest absurdity: each goalkeeper conceded five times last night and yet one would end up as a hero. 

It ultimately proved to be Liverpool’s 20-year-old stopper from Cork, Caoimhín Kelleher.

After a 5-5 draw across 90 minutes of a rollicking Carabao Cup last-16 tie, Kelleher denied Dani Ceballos in a penalty shootout to allow teenager Curtis Jones convert and send Liverpool into a quarter-final clash with Aston Villa. 

This was Kelleher’s senior debut at Anfield having appeared away to MK Dons in the previous round, and after the game, he reflected on a wild experience. 

“As soon as the final whistle went, all the focus was on trying to save in the shootout,” he told Liverpool’s official website

“Some of the lads and the coaches said to me, ‘You’ve nothing to lose, just try to be the hero.’ And luckily I did it in the end.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind. I’m obviously happy but it’s just hard to sum it up at the moment. It has all gone by quite quickly. It’s just unreal, to be honest.” 

Liverpool took an early lead through a Shkodran Mustafi own goal, but fell 3-1 down before a James Milner penalty halved the deficit at the break. Milner then left a backpass to Kelleher short to send Arsenal 4-2 up…to which Liverpool responded with goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi to level the game at 4-4. 

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Joe Willock then beat Kelleher from long range with a stunning goal to re-assert Arsenal’s lead, which they held until the third minute of stoppage time when Origi volleyed home a Neco Williams cross. 

“It goes right through the whole squad”, said Kelleher of the spirit within the Liverpool squad.

“We have a never-say-die attitude and we showed that once again, coming from behind on a few occasions. Div [Origi] scored an unreal goal to keep us in it. It just goes right through the whole squad that we’ll never give up.”

“It was unbelievable tonight,” he added. “Once you hear [the fans] singing You’ll Never Walk Alone and you’re actually playing, it’s quite surreal. It’s just an unreal feeling. It’s class.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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