Caoimhin Kelleher happy for a quiet life as Liverpool and Chelsea meet again

By Sports Desk February 24, 2024

Liverpool’s 2022 Carabao Cup final hero Caoimhin Kelleher will be more than happy to stay out of the limelight at Wembley.

The Republic of Ireland international scored what turned out to be the winning spot-kick after a goalless final against Sunday’s opponents Chelsea in an epic shoot-out which finished 11-10 when Kelleher’s opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga blazed over, the only failure from either side.

It was fitting for the Irishman, who has been Liverpool’s League Cup goalkeeper for the last few seasons, but he would prefer a quieter afternoon this time around.

“To be fair, I was just in the moment. I didn’t even realise it was my go and I looked at the lads and they were pointing at me,” said Kelleher.

“I didn’t have much to think so I just ended up smashing it in.”

Asked whether he had practised his penalties again he added: “I’ve done bits and bobs but I’m hoping we win it in the 90 minutes. I think it’s easier for the fans.

“I have great memories from the cup. I think the clear thing will be the penalty, that is a really nice moment.

“Then after Chelsea missed their penalty, our celebration with the fans and the team was a special moment and one I’ll never forget and hopefully we can recreate something similar on Sunday.

“It was a good experience to look back on but I’m just trying to focus on getting good results.”

Kelleher is set for his longest run in the team as first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who has already missed the last three matches with a hamstring injury, is sidelined until after next month’s international break.

As back-up the 25-year-old has never played more than three consecutive games for the club but, after a similar run in November and December when Alisson was injured, he now has a chance to play a big part in the quest for silverware as the club continue to fight on four fronts.

“It can only help having a run of games as it gets you in a good rhythm and it fills me with confidence playing week in, week out,” he added.

“It’s good for me as I can get that rhythm and that relationship with the team. It can only help.”

Alisson is one of a significant number of absences, which includes Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones, with Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai facing late fitness tests.

Liverpool’s midweek win over Luton showed how much their resources were stretched, with three defenders and five academy players on the bench, but assistant manager Pep Lijnders said there would be no excuses made.

“I think the good thing we always did in the past is look at what we have,” he said.

“It’s also good in life to just accept what you have and don’t look (at) what you don’t have, so that’s what we are trying to do.

“It brought us success in the past, so we try to keep that up.

“This season is a season where we created already three or four new teams in one season – that didn’t happen a lot in the last years.

“It’s a compliment for our squad, it’s a compliment for the academy.”

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    Jurgen Klopp was left to reflect on “a low point” for Liverpool after Atalanta inflicted one of the heaviest defeats of his reign in Thursday’s Europa League clash.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at how the Serie A side’s 3-0 romp compares to Klopp’s worst games with the club.

    Low point

    Gianluca Scamacca’s double and Mario Pasalic’s late strike gave Atalanta a 3-0 win in the first leg of their quarter-final, denting Klopp’s bid to add an eighth different trophy to his Anfield honours roll and end his reign with a showpiece final in Dublin.

    Only Manchester City and Aston Villa have ever enjoyed bigger winning margins against Klopp’s Liverpool, across his 483 games since taking charge in October 2015.

    City beat their perennial title rivals 5-0 on the way to the 2017-18 crown, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane scoring twice apiece, and then 4-0 in a futile attempt to stop Klopp’s men romping to their Covid-delayed 2019-20 win.

    Villa beat a much-changed Liverpool side 5-0 in the Carabao Cup in December 2019 – a defence of Ki-Jana Hoever, Tony Gallacher, Sepp van den Berg and Morgan Boyes powerless to prevent Jonathan Kodjia scoring his only two goals of that season.

    More memorably, Ollie Watkins’ hat-trick and a Jack Grealish brace set up a 7-2 league triumph against Klopp’s defending champions in October 2020.

    Anfield nightmare

    The common thread between those four hammerings is that they all took place away from Anfield, meaning Gian Piero Gasperini’s side inflicted a record-equalling home defeat on Klopp with Liverpool.

    It is the 11th time his side have lost by three goals – a sixth 3-0, to go with four 4-1s and a 5-2 – but only the third at home.

    City triumphed 4-1 in 2021, Ilkay Gundogan scoring twice, while last season’s Champions League challenge was effectively ended by that 5-2 defeat in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Real Madrid. Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool an early 2-0 lead but Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema scored twice apiece in Real’s emphatic comeback.

    City are also among the teams to inflict three-goal away defeats on Klopp’s side, a list that curiously includes Watford on two separate occasions along with Tottenham, Brighton and Wolves in the Premier League and Barcelona and Napoli in the Champions League.

    Liverpool’s heaviest ever home defeat is only 6-0, against Sunderland in the First Division in April 1930.

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    But Lille showed they are no pushovers and Bafode Diakite’s late header kept the tie alive after they had been repelled by an impressive performance from Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

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    Emery, who celebrated his 1,000th game as a manager, said: “Difficult match, we are ready to play another 90 minutes, we played the first 90 minutes, we didn’t control the game like we wanted and defensively we were doing more work than we prepared for because we wanted to control the game with our positioning.

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    Lille boss Paulo Fonseca, who almost took over at Newcastle and Tottenham in the last few years, felt Watkins’ goal should have been disallowed for a foul by Morgan Rogers on Ismally.

    “I don’t understand what is going on, it was a foul on the first goal,” he said.

    “I understand it is difficult for the referee with VAR it is just incredible they miss these things. It’s not good what is going on in football, the referees must look at what is going on in the moment.

    “A lot of matches, it is not football, it is blocking like in basketball. The first goal was a clear foul, a clear block. Being physical is one thing, fouling is another.”

    However, after the way they created chances at Villa Park, Fonseca knows the tie is very much alive.

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  • Jurgen Klopp says losing to Atalanta at Anfield a ‘low point’ for Liverpool Jurgen Klopp says losing to Atalanta at Anfield a ‘low point’ for Liverpool

    Jurgen Klopp called Thursday’s 3-0 home defeat to Atalanta a “low point” in Liverpool’s season as their Europa League hopes were left hanging by a thread.

    Liverpool looked flat throughout the quarter-final first leg and ended the night perhaps fortunate Atalanta had not taken one of the many late chances they had to add to a lead given to them by Gianluca Scamacca’s brace and a late Mario Pasalic goal.

    Harvey Elliott hit the post in the first half and Mo Salah had a goal ruled out for offside in the second, but Liverpool lacked the spark needed to beat a well-organised Atalanta side, who will be confident of finishing the job next Thursday in Bergamo.

    Before Klopp can think about that match, he must lift his players for Sunday’s visit of Crystal Palace in the tight battle at the top of the Premier League table.

    “It was a really bad game, oh my God,” Klopp said after Liverpool’s first home defeat in nearly 14 months.

    “We started well, really well and then didn’t continue. They broke, they scored and we just lost the plot a little bit. We were here and there in midfield, I didn’t recognise it.

    “It was really strange but in football terms it was tactical discipline. There was a big chance for Darwin (Nunez) and then it was unlucky with Harvey, but they scored and we kept playing into their hands.

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    Klopp made six changes to his side following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United, but his bid to freshen up the side failed, and their chances of ending the German’s reign with a showpiece final in Dublin have taken a huge hit.

    “I believe it’s not the moment to talk about that,” Klopp said when asked if the tie was still alive. “I’m not in the mood to think about the game in a week’s time when we have another in between.

    “Definitely we have to try, we want to win the game but now is not the moment to have a big mouth. We have to play a really good game.

    “Where we are, this is probably a low point for us performance-wise so it should be possible to play a little bit better and we can play a lot better. But first and foremost it’s about Sunday now.”

    The final whistle brought huge celebrations for Atalanta and their travelling fans. Gian Piero Gasperini said he wanted to enjoy the moment, but warned the job is only half done.

    “Tonight was amazing,” he said through a translator. “I didn’t make any changes until 10 minutes to go and the only one change because it is hard to touch something about a team that held until the 90th minute in the best way.

    “Such a victory, it’s OK to celebrate but we all know we ill have to conquer everything in seven days’ time in Bergamo because Liverpool is a really strong team and they can score goals quickly.

    “We will have to play another very precise game in every aspect and repeat tonight’s game because everything remains to be played. But our advantage makes us hope for the best.”

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