By Carl Markham, PA
Liverpool’s Carabao Cup hero Caoimhin Kelleher admits the chances the competition offers him provides motivation.
The Republic of Ireland goalkeeper, in his first appearance since scoring the winning goal to clinch the cup at Wembley in February, was the key figure again as he saved three spot-kicks in a 3-2 shoot-out win after 90 goalless minutes against League One Derby.
“I’ve always said, I think this cup has given me a lot of opportunities so every time I play, I always want to get through to the next round to give me another opportunity to play,” he told liverpoolfc.com.
“I approach every day like I’m going to play. I have to be ready to play – anything can happen anytime.
“I’ve trained with the goalie group every day, it’s a really good group to work with so I enjoy going in every day and trying to work hard.
“At the same time as well it’s difficult not getting the games, but like I say the more we do well in cup competitions like this the more game time I can hopefully get.
“I think you saw a lot of young players getting their chance – so the more times we can win in this competition the further we can get and the more game time for the younger players as well. That’s always a plus.”
Manager Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to his coaching staff for producing such a “modern goalie”.
Kelleher has now saved six penalties in shoot-outs, the most in the club’s history after surpassing Pepe Reina’s tally of five, and has been involved in eight League Cup matches, four of which have gone to spot-kicks of which he has won all.
Klopp said: “I think we never hold it back somehow and said Caoimh could not play – no, no, no, he is exceptional, he is absolutely exceptional.
“Had now not the best season so far because he came back from holiday and was injured and it took a really long time to get him back in training and back to speed.
“The goalkeeper coaches are just doing an incredible job, he is there and I am pretty sure he would say it exactly the same, he is their product.
“He does what they do with him and the goalie they developed is a modern goalie: calm as you like, can play football and on top of that can catch balls and kick the ball out in a really good manner and that’s really good.
“I am over the moon for him that he could have these situations.”
Klopp made 11 changes for the start of their cup defence, handing five full debuts to summer signing Calvin Ramsay (19), 17-year-old Bobby Clark – son of former Newcastle midfielder Lee – 18-year-olds Stefan Bajcetic and Melkamu Frauendorf and Layton Stewart (20).
Ben Doak, two days short of his 17th birthday, also got a late debut off the bench and impressed during his 16-minute cameo.
Klopp defended his selection, even if it led to a relatively toothless 65 minutes until Darwin Nunez, Roberto Firmino and Harvey Elliott were introduced.
“We have to do two things: make sure we don’t risk anybody, that’s very important, and the other thing is that we really love to give the boys the opportunity to play real man’s football against a team who wanted to get through obviously,” he added.