Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final hero Caoimhin Kelleher admits he would rather have saved a penalty than scored one in their shoot-out win over Chelsea which secured a record ninth success in the competition.
After all 10 outfield players on both sides were successful from the spot following 120 goalless minutes at Wembley, the Republic of Ireland international stepped up to lash home what turned out to be the winning effort.
Opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga, brought on late in extra time specifically for the shoot-out in a pre-determined move by Thomas Tuchel, blazed over and Kelleher was the hero in a shoot-out for the second time in three rounds of the League Cup.
However, while he made two penalty saves against Leicester in the quarter-final win he was barely given a chance at Wembley, such was the quality from the spot from both sides.
And that was a frustration for the Irishman, who repaid manager Jurgen Klopp’s faith for naming him in the team having been designated the role of cup goalkeeper this season.
“Someone said to me afterwards, ‘You scored the winning penalty’ but I wasn’t really bothered about that,” he told liverpoolfc.com.
“I was more bothered that I wanted to make a save but thank God anyway I scored and we got the win.
“I was dreaming good things (the night before), that we would win, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d score a penalty at the Liverpool end, the winning penalty. That’s just next level.”
Kelleher has only made 17 appearances in total since his debut in September 2019 but has been on the winning side 13 times and his only defeat was at Aston Villa in December 2019 as part of a youth team while the senior squad were in Qatar winning the Club World Cup.
He fully justified keeping his place at Wembley with a couple of good saves from Christian Pulisic, early on, and Lukaku right at the end of normal time.
He has proved an able deputy for first-choice Alisson Becker having established himself as Liverpool’s number two last season and has learned a lot from working closely with the Brazil international.
“He is brilliant,” he added.
“You saw Chelsea change their goalkeeper at the end as well, so for me to get the faith from the manager was special and Ali has just been great with me.
“There was no sulking or anything like that, he’s totally focused and he has been really helpful for me.”