Football | A mixed Anfield debut for Kelleher

“It was a bit of a crazy night!”

Caoimhin Kelleher said it best.

After conceding five goals on his Anfield debut, the Irish goalkeeper was one of Liverpool’s heroes in the penalty shootout win over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, saving Dani Ceballos’ spot-kick to help the Reds win 5-4 on penalties.

The game went straight to penalties after an outrageous 5-5 draw on Merseyside, after Divock Origi’s stoppage time equalizer kept the hosts in the game.

Kelleher made a crucial save to deny Ceballos from Arsenal’s fourth penalty, before youngster Curtis Jones – making his home debut – then scored the winning penalty into the Kop to send the Reds into the last eight of the competition.

“I’ve done a lot of work with the keeper coach on saving penalties,” Kelleher told Sky Sports afterwards.

“It was a crazy game to be a ‘keeper, I didn’t have time to blink.

“It’s what dreams are made of, winning a shootout in front of the Kop. The atmosphere was amazing, I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

“Some of the lads and the coaches said to me, ‘You’ve nothing to lose, just try to be the hero.’ It was a bit of a whirlwind. I’m obviously happy but it’s just hard to sum it up at the moment. It’s just unreal, to be honest.”

Both teams made 11 changes from their respective Premier League clashes on Sunday, with opposite numbers Jurgen Klopp and Unai Emery electing to freshen things up.

League leaders Liverpool took an early lead under the Anfield lights, with Shokdran Mustafi diverting Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain’s cross into his own net in just the sixth minute after debutant Neco Williams found Ox down the right channel.

Arsenal hit back in the 19th minute, with midfielder Lucas Torreira converting from close range after Kelleher parried Bukayo Saka’s low shot.

Replays suggested Torreira was offside, but the absence of VAR in the competition meant that the goal was allowed to stand.

Arsenal took the lead seven minutes later, capitalizing on some poor Liverpool defending from a quick free kick.

Torreira passed the set piece quickly out to Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right, with the latter breezing past Origi and sending a low cross into the box.

Kelleher was forced into a reflex save when the ball deflected off Sepp van den Berg, and a well-positioned Gabriel Martinelli was on hand to give the Gunners the lead from close range.

Martinelli doubled his tally in the 36th minute, sweeping home Saka’s cross after the impressive Mesut Ozil cut out Harvey Elliot’s wayward pass deep in the Liverpool half.

Two minutes before the interval, Martinelli conceded a penalty after a coming together with Elliot,- who at 16 years and 209 days became the youngest player to appear for the club at Anfield – though the contact looked minimal.

James Milner – who played the game at left back – stepped up to dispatch the penalty with aplomb to send Liverpool into the break 3-2 down.

There were five goals in a frantic opening 45 minutes, and there were still five more to come in a pulsating second half.

Emery’s visitors scored the game’s sixth goal in the 54th minute, benefiting from an awful mistake from Milner.

The English midfielder undercooked his routine back pass to Kelleher, allowing Maitland-Niles
to nip in and get a touch on the ball.

Ozil then produced a sumptuous back heel on the byline to keep the ball in play and allow Maitland-Niles to tap into an empty net.

It was a former Gunners player who scored Liverpool’s third goal in the 58th minute.

Adam Lallana’s header fell to Oxlaide-Chamberlain 25 yards from goal, and the midfielder took one touch before unleashing a superb swerving shot into the top corner.

Four minutes later, the Merseyside club were level.

Curtis Jones – who came on for the disappointing Naby Keita – drove forward from midfield and picked out Origi on the edge of the box.

The Belgian striker had been struggling up to that point, but he turned sharply past Rob Holding before firing a powerful shot past Emiliano Martinez, who got a hand to it.

Martinelli squandered a good chance to seal his hat-trick, but another Arsenal younger produced a stunning strike to restore the visitors’ lead in the 70th minute.

Joe Willock dribbled forward from deep before finding the top corner with a wonderful finish from 25 yards to make it 4-4.

70 minutes into his home debut, Republic of Ireland U21 ‘keeper Kelleher was picking the ball out of the net for the fifth time, with Liverpool conceded five goals at Anfield for only the second time in 66 years.

Arsenal looked destined for the quarter-finals as the game entered stoppage time, before Origi scored yet another important goal for Klopp’s men.

In the 94th minute, the 25-year-old striker produced an excellent finish from Williams’ cross to send the game to penalties.

Hector Bellerin scored Arsenal’s first penalty at the Kop end, with Milner soon converting his second penalty of the game.

Mattéo Guendouzi, Lallana, Martinelli and Rhian Brewster all found the net from the next four penalties.

Ceballos then saw his effort saved by the diving Kelleher, before 18-year-old Jones scored the winning penalty on his home debut.

What a game.