Why Norwich penalty save was extra important for Caoimhin Kelleher

It was a big moment for Liverpool, and in particular their goalkeeper, as Caoimhin Kelleher saved a penalty at a decisive point in Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Norwich.

After Takumi Minamino‘s early opener at Carrow Road, Norwich grew into the game as they exploited the space behind the Reds’ high defensive line.

On a number of occasions, Kelleher was required to break the confines of his penalty area to head the ball to safety, but the 22-year-old could do nothing as Conor Bradley brought down Dimitris Giannoulis in the 42nd minute.

Thankfully, the goalkeeper’s trailing legs kept out the resulting spot-kick from Christos Tzolis, keeping Liverpool a goal up heading into half-time.

A header from Divock Origi and another from Minamino sealed a comfortable win for the Reds, with Kelleher now having kept five clean sheets in his 10 appearances for the first team so far.

During that time, the Irishman has conceded 13 goals, but 10 of those came in two wild games against Arsenal and Aston Villa in the League Cup in 2019 – the latter as part of an academy side managed by Neil Critchley.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kelleher is enjoying a burgeoning reputation for club and country, but as it stands he is behind Portsmouth’s Man City loanee Gavin Bazanu for the No. 1 shirt for the Republic of Ireland.

In his post-match interview with Sky Sports, then, Jurgen Klopp was right to point out the significance of his penalty save, with his international manager, Stephen Kenny, watching from the stands.

“Kweev is a top goalie,” Klopp said.

“[It was] important for him that his international coach can see that he’s really good!”

Kenny has regularly spoken about how Kelleher’s lack of appearances at club level are holding him back from taking up first-choice duties for Ireland.

“It’s a tight decision as I regard Caoimhin Kelleher so highly as he’s an exceptional goalkeeper,” he said earlier this month.

“But it’s just that he’s not playing.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s goalkeeping coach Jack Robinson (L) and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

However, while Bazanu is a reliable starter for Portsmouth, that Kelleher is able to step in, effectively cold, to replace Alisson and perform so well for Liverpool should work in his favour.

Among his record of clean sheets have come shutouts against Ajax in the Champions League and Wolves in the Premier League – the Reds’ third choice, Adrian, has only kept one more in 24 outings, for six in total.

It is a difficult situation for Kelleher, given the standard set by Alisson, but all he can do is keep putting in the performances whenever he is called upon.