Liverpool waded deeper and deeper through their injury crisis as they welcomed Ajax to Anfield on Tuesday night.
The Reds have really had their mettle tested in recent weeks with key players such as Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago Alcantara all on the treatment table.
It looked to be a case of no players, no problem during the 3-0 win over Leicester City after the international break, but the long list of absentees quickly caught up with Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Liverpool vs Ajax
They first slumped to a 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta where they failed to produce a single shot on target, before drawing 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion in a game where they were second best for large spells.
As a result, their return to Champions League action in mid-week was crucial if the Premier League holders were going to resuscitate their morale, but they instead another absence to deal with.
That’s because the Merseyside club were without Alisson Becker between the sticks and after some poor performances from Adrian in 2020, Klopp decided to roll the dice by playing Caoimhin Kelleher.
It marked the Irishman’s first appearance in the Champions League and a real chance for him to prove himself as Liverpool’s number two shot-stopper.
Kelleher’s brilliant save late on
And to say he had a brilliant evening against the European giants would be a huge understatement, making a series of crucial saves on his way to a clean sheet at Anfield.
Curtis Jones had fired Liverpool into the lead on the night after a mistake from André Onana, paving the way for victory and Kelleher’s cat-like reflexes in the goal were pivotal in protecting that lead.
However, the finest save of all came in the dying moments, denying Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from a close range with an instinctive stop – you can check it out down below:
Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool) brilliant save against Ajax 88'pic.twitter.com/WQKZNa5MrH— noobfcb (@noob_fcb) December 1, 2020
Klopp and Kelleher embrace
And the 22-year-old’s fantastic display clearly wasn’t lost on Klopp who was seen sharing a lovely moment with his debutant at full-time, running over to him and giving him an emotional embrace.
Other members of the Reds squad, most notably Andrew Robertson, expressed their gratitude for Kelleher’s contributions, but it was the instant appreciation from Klopp that must have resonated the most.
You can check out the pair sharing a lovely moment here:
Liverpool are through to the Champions League knockouts ✅— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 1, 2020
The Reds top Group D, and Jürgen Klopp gives Caoimhin Kelleher a big bear hug.
A great display from the young keeper 👏 pic.twitter.com/HpP2junkqV
European nights are always special at Anfield. It just happens that what made this specific evening so memorable was its meaning and importance to one player in particular.
And although Kelleher didn’t have the partisan chants of the Kop that his performance deserved, the happiness on Klopp’s face after investing so much faith in him must have meant the absolute world.