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'My phone hasn't stopped hopping' - Kelleher on debut

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Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher reflected on an "amazing" night after he kept a clean sheet on his Champions League debut as the Premier League champions overcame Ajax 1-0 to advance to the knockout phase. 

Curtis Jones' second half goal, after an error from Ajax keeper Andre Onana, proved decisive as Liverpool edged out the Dutch champions following a largely listless first half display. 



Kelleher, the Republic of Ireland U21 keeper, delivered an impressive and authoritative display, making a number of fine saves - tipping a Noussair Mazraoui effort over in the first half, parrying away a 54th minute Antony shot which was destined for the bottom corner and, best of all, a point blank save from a Klaas Jan Huntelaar header in the closing minutes.  



"It was amazing to make my debut in a Champions League game, it was massive for me. Obviously the most important thing was to get the win and qualify, which we did, so yeah, great night", Kelleher told BT Sport afterwards.



Another superb save from Caoimhin Kelleher. #LIVAJA #UCL pic.twitter.com/pMakbOCDuZ

— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) December 1, 2020

"I work every day in training to make sure I'm ready when it comes to a game, thankfully tonight I was able to make a good few saves."

Word emerged of Kelleher's selection a couple of hours before kick-off, a consequence of an injury to regular first-choice Alisson Becker. 

Kelleher, who holds a Champions League medal as an unused substitute in 2019, had been retained as third choice goalkeeper behind Adrian but his perceived superior abilities with the ball at his feet has seen him leap ahead of the Spanish stopper in the pecking order. 

"It's quite easy for me to be honest. The players in front of me, when the ball comes back to me, they always make easy options and make my decisions so much easier. It was easy for me with those players in front." 

"We're not here just to take part, we want to push every day and play as many games as we can. You can see we are making a difference and improving the team, so yeah, it’s good."

Kelleher acknowledged that since word of his selection seeped out, well wishes have been flooding in from Cork.

"My phone has been hopping since I got in. But big thanks to every one there, all the support and messages I've been getting, I'm thankful for them." 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said it had been difficult to drop Adrian but described Kelleher as a "top talent."

FULL-TIME: Liverpool 1-0 Ajax - Caoimhin Kelleher keeps a clean sheet on a night to remember for the Irishman at Anfield. #LIVAJA #UCL pic.twitter.com/VI95R0pLRz

— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) December 1, 2020

"It is a situation where I have to say it was easy to decide for Caoimh, because he deserves it, but difficult to decide against Adrian because he has done well for us," said Klopp of the decision. 

"He did a really good job but tonight we needed the package of Caoimh and he is a top talent, really good shot-stopper and top footballer.

"In the end it is about keeping the ball out the net and he did that twice and he did that in an exceptional manner. He will either sleep really well tonight or not at all."


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