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LIVERPOOL 1 AJAX 0 'It was an amazing one for me' - Caoimhin Kelleher on his dream Champions League debut as Liverpool progress


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher after during the UEFA Champions League Group D match at Anfield, Liverpool. PA Photo.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher after during the UEFA Champions League Group D match at Anfield, Liverpool. PA Photo.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher after during the UEFA Champions League Group D match at Anfield, Liverpool. PA Photo.

He was handed a dream Champions League debut by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Irish youngster Caoimhin Kelleher delivered in the grand manner.

Curtis Jones scored the winning goal that fired Liverpool into the last-16 of the Champions League, yet this was a night when Kelleher claimed all the plaudits.

After Klopp afforded him the ultimate vote of confidence by handing the Cork youngster a Champions League debut after an injury ruled Alisson Becker out, Kelleher responded with a sparkling display as he kept a clean sheet.

Kelleher collected a Champions League winners' medal as he was part of Liverpool's 2019 winning squad, but this was the night when the 22-year-old came of age as he pulled off some smart saves looked solid throughout.

The result ensured Liverpool qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League with a game to spare and Kelleher could not stop smiling as he gave his verdict to BT Sport.

"It was an amazing one for me, to make my debut in a Champions League game was massive and we got the win and qualifed. A great night," he said.

"That's what I'm there for, I work every day in training to make sure I am ready and I was able to make a good few saves.

"It's quite easy for me with the players in front of me, they give me good options. We are not here to take part, the young players want to push and play as many games as we can.

"My phone has been hot since I got in tonight, thanks for all the support."

Klopp was quick to congratulate Kelleher for his performance at the final whistle, as he explained why he picked the Irishman ahead of regular back-up keeper Adrian.

"I really think Adrian has done a fantastic job for us, he kept a lot of clean sheets, played everywhere, but now we needed the natural football playing ability of Caoimhin Kelleher," explained Klopp.

"He is a good shot stopper as well. We made that decision but you never know how they are going to cope. I am really happy with how calm he was and how good he was.

"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.

"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.

"I can say the same about the whole team. Honestly since I was at Liverpool that feels like one of the biggest Champions League nights. Without supporters in, it was the most important, most difficult, most exceptional.

"With the circumstances, there hasn't been much to smile about, it's been tricky, and the boys throw themselves into the game. Robbo (Andy Robertson) has a proper knock on the ankle and pushes himself through, Hendo with a sore back, Gini (Wijnaldum).

"Then I have no words for him. Curtis Jones, what a game, It's amazing, I'm really proud."

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was full of praise for Kelleher as he saluted the performance of an injury hit-Liverpool side.

"A very tough game. The boys were outstanding and gave it everything," stated Henderson. "We should have scored a few more on the counter, but overall we are delighted with the three points and a clean sheet.

"It's a great finish from Curtis Jones. He gambled that the keeper was going to miss it and a great finish.

"We managed the game better second half, it was end to end in the first half and we could have scored a few more. We'll take the points and the qualification.

"We know the injury problems we have got but I feel that the togetherness is big in this dressing room. We dug out a win."

Meanwhile, Manchester City secured top spot in their Champions League group with a 0-0 draw against FC Porto, while Real Madrid face a battle to get through to the next round after a 2-0 away defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk forced boss Zinedine Zidane to insiste he will not quit despite his side's woeful dip in form.

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