Caoimhin Kelleher made a crucial late save from Klass-Jan Huntelaar to earn Liverpool a win over Ajax and put the Reds to Champions League knockouts.
The rookie goalkeeper was a surprise starter for Jurgen Klopp’s side with first-choice goalkeeper Alisson injured in a hamstring, with Tuesday night’s performance being the 22-year-old’s first-ever Champions League game.
At the end of his European debut, Kelleher was forced into a superb reflex save from experienced striker Huntelaar, who was directing Ajax winger Antony’s cross goal from the penalty area.
Rookie goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher was included in Liverpool’s starting lineup on Tuesday
The 22-year-old was saved from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the 88th minute in Tuesday’s win at Anfield
The save was crucial in the Reds’ 1-0 win at Anfield, Curtis Jones had previously put Liverpool in the lead, and the result secured the Merseysiders course in the final 16 stages with a group game to play.
Speaking about his debut, Kelleher told BT Sport: “It was amazing for me to make my debut. Obviously the most important thing was to get the victory. Fortunately, I was able to make a few stops. That’s what I’m here for.
“It’s pretty easy for me because when the players in front of me hand the ball back to me, they always make the easy options. ”
Jurgen Klopp ran onto the pitch right after the final whistle to congratulate Kelleher (above)
Ahead of Tuesday night’s game, the 22-year-old was said to be Liverpool’s third goalkeeper behind Alisson and Adrian, the latter replacing the regular top pick when he sustained a shoulder injury in October.
But Liverpool manager Klopp believes Kelleher brings more security with his feet than Adrian and praised the Irishman for a ‘good game’ on his European debut.
Klopp told BT: “In this game we needed Caoimhin’s natural ability to play football and because he is a very good goalscorer as well. We made this decision and you never know.
Liverpool boss praised the Irishman’s ‘natural playing ability’ on Tuesday night
Kelleher replaced Adrian in place of injured No.1 Alisson (pictured)
“All the boys are calm by the time they get the information but there is a difference being there on the pitch and I’m really happy with the way he handled it, his composure and his quality. It was a good game. ‘
Kelleher’s performance against Ajax has also caught the attention of pundits at BT Sport, who believe the Irish striker has earned Klopp’s trust and could feature in the Premier League champions’ upcoming games, starting with the Sunday’s clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said: “Kelleher didn’t hurt himself and gave the manager something to think about. All you want to do is make the manager think, “I can trust him”.