Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised the “absolutely exceptional” Caoimhin Kelleher after last season’s Carabao Cup hero set a club record as he saved three spot-kicks to spare the holders’ blushes against League One Derby at Anfield.
After failing to find a breakthrough in 90 minutes, Klopp’s side were forced to rely on the goalkeeper whose penalty gave them the trophy at Wembley in February to reach this season’s fourth round.
Kelleher repelled penalties from Conor Hourihane, Craig Forsyth and, crucially, Lewis Dobbin, allowing Harvey Elliott to slot home the final kick to send Liverpool through.
In Kelleher’s eight EFL Cup appearances, Liverpool have won all four that have gone to a penalty shootout – with the Republic of Ireland international saving a club-record six spot-kicks.
It was a deserved success as the hosts carried most of the attacking threat.
But, backed by a noisy 5,600-strong travelling support, Derby battled throughout, with skipper Max Bird slashing the visitors’ best chance across the face of Kelleher’s goal at the start of the second half.
The manner of the victory means Liverpool have still not won a home game in the competition in normal time since 2016. Not that it will bother them too much.
Asked about Kelleher’s record, Klopp said: “In history? Wow. They were really good penalties. They were all going into the corner, it’s not like there was a bad one.”
The Liverpool boss added: “He is absolutely exceptional. He’s a modern goalie. As calm as you like. He can play football and on top of that he can keep the ball out of the net.
“I am over the moon for him. When he smiles you know it means a lot for him. There are still a lot of goalkeeping years to come from him.”