Caoimhin Kelleher helps Liverpool to Europa League win over LASK
Caoimhin Kelleher played an important role for Liverpool tonight.
Ireland international Caoimhin Kelleher played a key role for Liverpool as they bagged a 3-1 win over Austrian outfit LASK in their opening game of the 2023/2024 Europa League.
Kelleher, who will once again be restricted to minutes outside of the Premier League this season, made sure the formidable Alison Becker wasn’t missed between the sticks by producing a couple of big saves for the rotated Reds.
He also would have pleased national team coach Stephen Kenny by completing 82% of his passes in an assured ball-playing performance.
Liverpool conceded the first goal of the game after just 13 minutes but there was nothing the Corkman could do about it as a Florian Flecker rocket rasped into the corner of his net.
𝐋𝐀𝐒𝐊 𝐓𝐀𝐊𝐄 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐃! 🤯
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) September 21, 2023
Kelleher produces big saves in Liverpool win.
Jurgen Klopp wouldn’t have been pleased with the closing down or marking of his defenders from the preceding corner, especially as it left them chasing the game until they eventually found a 56th minute equaliser.
That goal came courtesy of a Darwin Nunez penalty but not before Kelleher prevented things from getting worse by getting down low to his left corner for an important save.
And at 1-1 he came up with another top class intervention. With a LASK forward in behind Liverpool’s offside trap and shaping up to finish from close range, the Ringmahon Rangers product stuck out an instinctive leg to deflect the ball over his crossbar and away from danger.
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) September 21, 2023
The ruthless visitors left LASK ruing their luck moments later as Luis Diaz gave Liverpool the lead – that’s what an elite side can do to you – and in the 88th minute substitute Mo Salah sealed the deal with his team’s third of the evening.
Pundit Arena’s Ronan Calvert:
Strong Europa League and cup performances from Kelleher will probably reopen a debate about the Ireland number one shirt.
While Bazunu hasn’t done much wrong for Ireland, you do feel increasingly worried that his club form will eventually affect his international performances.
No doubt Southampton’s defensive issues are a huge reason why Bazunu concedes so many goals but at what stage does his confidence begin to dip as a result? He’ll know the goals he concedes aren’t necessarily his fault but it’s still a lot to digest for a young ‘keeper.
Another busy night for Mark Travers tonight.
Championship saves per 90 mins stats
🔺 3rd – Mark Travers (3.8)
🔺 11th Max O'Leary (2.7)
🔺 13th Gavin Bazunu (2.6)
And save percentage
🔺 2nd Mark Travers (76.7)
🔺5th Max O'Leary (76.0)
🔺 23rd Gavin Bazunu (51.4)#COYBIG
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) September 20, 2023
If tonight taught us one thing it’s that Kelleher won’t magically stop Ireland from conceding long-range belters – he left one in tonight – and I’m not sure that problematic trend is down to any issue with Bazunu’s shot-stopping. It’s probably more to do with the closing down of Josh Cullen and the defenders.
That said, it’s been long agreed that Bazunu and Kelleher are of very similar abilities so if Kelleher is clearly in a more positive, confident place than Bazunu ahead of the next international windows then he possibly deserves the shot.
Mark Travers is another option. He’s one of the busiest goalkeepers in the Championship for Stoke City, averaging more than 3.5 saves a game but there would be a view that he’s less convincing on the ball than the other two.
Max O’Leary with Bristol City is similar in that regard – he’s outperforming Bazunu when it comes to shot-stopping but you’d wonder if he’s up to playing Ireland’s build-from-the-back style.