Another penalty shootout, another Caoimhin Kelleher masterclass. That was the story of the night at Anfield as Liverpool beat Derby to progress to the Carabao Cup fourth round on Wednesday.
The 90 minutes weren’t the prettiest. It was great to see a host of young players given opportunities to impress, but in truth, for much of the second half, this had the feel of a game that would be decided on penalties.
A good job, then, that in Jurgen Klopp‘s words, Liverpool have the best No. 2 goalkeeper in the game, right?
Here, This Is Anfield’s Jack Sear (@JackSear) is joined by Matt Ladson (@mattladson) and Dave Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) to talk the youngsters, Kelleher’s heroics and the potential for another cup run this season.
A chaotic few days off the pitch… Relief is the overriding emotion after that, isn’t it?
MATT: League Cup games are always nice as there’s usually a lot tension, but then it would’ve been pretty annoying to exit to a League One side so it became tense for penalties!
I still can’t get over the fact we’ve not won a League Cup game at Anfield inside 90 minutes since 2016. Mind well and truly blown.
JACK: It was pretty clear going into this week that Liverpool just needed to find a way to grind out two victories before the break, and the takeover talk only emphasised that, really.
One down, one to go.
DAVE: It was good to focus on the on-field action again. Unfortunately said on-field action wasn’t particularly entertaining, although it picked up in the second half.
I think when you make 11 changes, play a lot of youngsters and field new combinations in each area of the team, you’re kind of accepting that you’ll see a disjointed performance.
At that stage, it becomes all about just getting the result, without necessarily being stylish. Fortunately Liverpool managed to do that.
In fairness, I was impressed that even that side was able to exhibit near-total control, with 74 per cent possession against a near full-strength Derby team.
Which of the youngsters stood out for you?
DAVE: Calvin Ramsay built on an encouraging cameo against Napoli last week with a really good full debut. I don’t think there was a particular area of his game that impressed me most, it was more the air of authority he possesses. He was so heavily involved in the game and looks pretty strong too.
And then you’d have to mention Ben Doak. He was the youngest teenager to feature for the Reds if I’m not mistaken but, Ramsay aside, he was the best. His close control and his dribbling ability already look to be near an elite standard. That run-out will only magnify the hype.
Also, a shout-out to Harvey Elliott, who injected real quality when he came on and tucked away the winning penalty with supreme composure.
MATT: Yeah, Doak was the one wasn’t he. Ran at defenders, made more dribbles in his cameo than any other player. I don’t want to hype such a young player up, but the potential for a Michael Owen-like emergence is there.
Hopefully Doak, and the others, get a good opportunity in the next round.
JACK: It was really good to see Ramsay get a game, and even after the first 45 minutes, you could see what he’s all about. Another full-back that’s very comfortable in possession, and as Dave alluded to, I was impressed with the way he put himself about against a physical side as well.
Doak’s cameo didn’t surprise me. You only have to have seen a couple of goals at youth level to see he has the makings of a serious player, while Stefan Bajcetic and Bobby Clark are clearly big talents, too.
Kelleher is some ‘keeper to have for shootouts, isn’t he?
MATT: They weren’t even bad penalties were they! Just superb saves.
JACK: I do wonder if this could be his last season at the club. There’s no doubt he deserves to be playing regular football.
DAVE: The opposition may as well concede defeat when the game finishes level! It’s staggering.
Obviously the flip side for Liverpool, as Jack mentions, is that Kelleher’s latest heroics will only attract more attention, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him push for a move next summer.
After all, he’s about to turn 24 and Alisson isn’t going anywhere.
MATT: Yeah, that’s the worry that he’ll want to go. We can’t keep him happy. I’d like to see us get someone temporary in as a backup and let Kelleher go on loan somewhere for a season or two.
Perhaps Marcelo Pitaluga could be a backup keeper next season, allowing Kelleher to go out on loan.
Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal already out – Fancy another cup run this season?
DAVE: Last season, all four semi-finalists were big six teams, and now half of them have already been eliminated.
Liverpool definitely have an opportunity, and if the draw falls in their favour like it did in the early rounds last season, they could be well-placed to defend the trophy. Let’s not forget, they’re now only two wins from the last four, given that they entered the competition at a pretty late stage.
We’ll also have to see what kind of condition the players are in come 20-22 December, because they won’t have played competitively for more than a month.
JACK: There’ll only be nine other Premier League teams in the hat for the next round…
MATT: There’s seven PL clubs out of the competition already (once one of Villa or United exit), so there’s a decent chance of a non-PL tie in the next round.
Before you know it, it’s later January and you’re in a semi-final.
However, I’m not sure we have the backup in attack we had last season of Origi and Minamino, so we’d need all the forwards back fit (Diaz and Jota) for that to happen.