Subtle, but definitely helpful for his teammates.
Caoimhin Kelleher was the hero of Liverpool’s penalty shootout against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, and that is all without even saving a penalty.
The young Ireland international scored the winning penalty, while every single Chelsea outfield player scored too. Along stepped Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was brought on specifically for the shootout, and he blazed his shot way over the bar.
And while it was Kelleher’s goal that won Liverpool the game, he also played a part in helping his fellow outfield players score, with a clever tactic.
Kepa has been criticised for some of his antics during the shootout, as he attempted to get into the Liverpool players’ heads. This is commonplace in a shootout, but many felt as though Kepa overstepped the mark, with Jamie Redknapp saying he really “didn’t like it”.
Kelleher, clearly having noticed this, collected the ball each time after a Chelsea player scored, to ensure that he would be the one giving it to his teammates.
Caoimhin Kelleher penalty tactic
Had he not been the one rolling the ball to his teammates, perhaps Kepa would have got a hold of it, and he would have been able to interfere more than he already did.
This was pointed out by a number of eagle-eyed viewers on the day, who saw Kelleher’s composure in the biggest game of his career so far.
One simple thing Liverpool did in an attempt to stop Kepa's shootout mind games, was Kelleher collecting the ball after each Chelsea penalty and rolling it to the teammate stepping forward for the next LFC penalty, reducing Kepa's chance to interfere.
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) February 28, 2022
The standard of penalties on the day were “class”, to use Kelleher’s own words, with many questioning whether Chelsea would have been better off leaving Edouard Mendy on the pitch for the shootout.
Mendy was one of the standout performers in the match, and has been all season, but Kepa is seen as a penalty specialist by Thomas Tuchel.
It will be fascinating to see what happens if Chelsea get taken to penalties later on in the season, either in the FA Cup or the Champions League.
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