‘Fantastic, confident on the ball, learning from the best’: Van Dijk wowed by 23-year-old that earned Liverpool a point against Chelsea

Virgil van Dijk performed below his usual standards against Chelsea but he praised Caoimhin Kelleher for his crucial role in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge as the 23-year-old filled in for Alisson Becker.

The Brazillian, along with compatriot Roberto Firmino, Cameroonian Joel Matip and the gaffer, Jurgen Klopp, missed the game due to a positive COVID-19 test result.

All four are now in isolation at home and will be back in a week but will miss the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Arsenal and the FA third-round tie vs Shrewsbury Town.

Caoimhin Kelleher

Aside from the Arsenal clash which presents the opportunity to take a tentative first step to some silverware this season, it’s fortunate Liverpool’s COVID-19 cases will not be absent for any Premier League games.

Kelleher was simply fantastic against Chelsea. Liverpool fans are well aware of how good he is but we have largely been limited to seeing him in domestic cup games.

His first highlight of the game was an absolutely outstanding save to deny Christian Pulisic a certain goal. Trent Alexander-Arnold will have thanked him after the game as he saved his blushes.

Caoimhin Kelleher

The Scouse fullback swept the ball up behind the Reds’ back four but found himself on the left-hand side of the defence and needing to clear the ball on his left foot which was blocked into Pulisic’s path by Kai Havertz’s high press.

The American should have done better with the ball but his attempt to round the stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper was thwarted as Kelleher smothered the ball and prevented a certain goal.

To be fair to Trent, he did well to get back onto the byline to cover for Kelleher but it was poor from the rightback.

Caoimhin Kelleher

Kelleher did well to save Marcos Alonso’s freekick in the first half but he could do nothing to stop the resulting volley from Mateo Kovacic and neither could Alisson or any other goalkeeper on the planet.

He also had very little to say about Christian Pulisic’s equaliser which was a great finish although the defending from Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate left a lot to be desired.

The best moment of the game for the 23-year-old came right at the death when Chelsea were in the ascendancy.

A ball into the box from Alonso was missed by Havertz and van Dijk but the ball fell to Mason Mount and his snapshot was instinctively saved by Kelleher to keep the Reds in the game and keep their faint hopes of winning the Premier League alive.

Caoimhin Kelleher

My pre-match prediction that Mount might punish Liverpool almost came true but Kelleher produced a wonderful reflex save to keep the scores level and earn his side a valuable if not frustrating point.

Van Dijk praised his young teammate after the game, saying: “I’m quite a big fan of him. He is a fantastic goalkeeper.

“He is learning from the best, in my opinion, with Alisson.

Caoimhin Kelleher

“His presence is good, he is confident on the ball and he is making good saves as well. That’s good and we need him right now because of obviously the COVID cases.

“Unfortunately, we conceded two but the first one he can’t really do anything about it. We need him for the next games as well.”

Michael Mongie
Football Central Media Group founder, owner and editor.

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