Caoimhin Kelleher during last night's clash. Joe Giddens
singled out

Liverpool boss impressed by Irish U21 keeper Kelleher in first-team debut

‘Having not a lot to do over the whole game and then having these kind of saves, that’s absolutely brilliant so I’m happy about that.’

IRISH U21 GOALKEEPER Caoimhin Kelleher was the first name on Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s lips in last night’s post-match press conference following their 2-0 Carabao Cup win over MK Dons.

Cork native Kelleher was handed his full Liverpool debut and impressed throughout, keeping a clean sheet after some quality late saves to set up a last-16 clash with Arsenal at Anfield.

The 20-year-old became the first Irish player to play a competitive, first-team game for the Reds since Robbie Keane featured in a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic on 28 January 2009.

And Klopp was pleased with what he saw, Kelleher singled out first and foremost when the German manager was asked about the overall team performance.

“Very good moments, couple of individual performances of course,” he told LFCTV.

“[For] 75 minutes we controlled the game nearly perfect, but then without a high number of possessions MK Dons did a lot of good stuff so it was really tricky.

“Caoimh Kelleher… to be honest, these games are there so the boys can show how good they are.

For a goalie, it’s quite difficult in a game like this but then being there having not a lot to do over the whole game and then having these kind of saves, that’s absolutely brilliant so I’m happy about that as well.

“We could have done better, of course, in that period, there’s no doubt about that. But before that we controlled the game, we started well as a team but then we got a bit stiff because we didn’t score. An early goal would have helped, we have to force the goal then obviously.”

Klopp was also full of praise for 16-year-old Harvey Elliot, the youngest player to make a competitive start for Liverpool, and there were several nods to James Milner’s vast experience.

The latter’s 41st-minute effort and teenage defender Ki-Jana Hoever’s 69th-minute goal ensured it finished 2-0, but exposure to the biggest stage for younger players was the main thing for Klopp.

He added: “The team tonight was a team with a lack of rhythm and a lack of experience. The most experienced and the player with the most rhythm was the best player on the pitch — Millie was pretty obvious.

“But it’s so important that we still do these games, that we are brave enough to use the boys. We are not here with this line-up because we don’t respect the competition, we are here to win the game, no other reason.

“We don’t fly to London with all that stuff and then say goodbye. So I am really happy that we went through, that’s cool and that the boys felt adult’s football as well, that’s really important.

“Very physical situations for offensive players especially, not overly hard, but hard challenges. But still they could show in moments how good they are, so big step for them and I am really happy. All good.”

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