'He showed what a top-class keeper he is' - Caoimhin Kelleher praised as Liverpool's youngsters are beaten
Liverpool coach Neil Critchley paid tribute to Irish keeper Caoimhin Kelleher after his young side were beaten 5-0 by an experienced Aston Villa side in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Goals from Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane, an own goal from Morgan Boyes, two for Jonathan Kodjia and a second-half strike from Wesley eased Villa into the last four on a night when the Reds were predictably second best.
With Liverpool's senior players set to play in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday, Critchley was in charge of the youngest team the club’s history - the starting line-up, which featured five debutants, having an average age of just 19 years and 182 days - at Villa Park.
While the visitors were well beaten at Villa Park, Irish teenager Kelleher caught the eye once again with some stunning saves and he won praise from his manager.
"He showed what a top-class goalkeeper he is and what he could be in the future," said Critchley. "I thought he pulled off some magnificent saves in the second half.
"We ran out of steam a little bit, as you could see. Young players, some of them started to cramp and we didn’t control those moments well enough but that’s the inexperience of young players. You could see Aston Villa’s players start to control the game and it’s very difficult when you’re 4-0 down.
"Our young players are running all over the pitch and desperate to make an impression and senior players, with that cool head, can just pick you off and they started to do that a little bit. But I’ve got to be honest, I thought 5-0 was quite a harsh scoreline on us.
"I'm incredibly proud of that performance. I thought for large periods we were well in the game. I thought the start to the game was brilliant and I think we were actually the better team for the first 12 or 13 minutes and then obviously we concede from a wide free-kick which we could've done a little bit better with.
"Then the second one is a real cruel deflection and you find yourself 2-0 down scratching your head. I don’t think we did too many things wrong in the game.
"At half-time we spoke about the things that would be important to us in the second half and I thought we came out and gave a really good account of ourselves in the second half as well.
"The 'keeper's pulled off some decent saves and I thought for large periods of the game we had quite a lot of the possession. I know they managed the game a bit in the second half, as senior players would do, but we went right to the end. We played like a Liverpool team and I think the supporters really appreciated the efforts."
Critchley went on to reveal he had received some advice from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp as he watched the game with the rest of the Liverpool squad in Qatar.
"We had some information at half-time from the manager," he added. "Basically to keep playing the way we were playing, keep being brave, keep doing what we were doing. So he was out there watching with the staff and the players and I hope, and I'm sure he will be, he is proud of the way we played.
"You can't swap that experience for anything, that was a special evening for them and we are the beneficiaries of the success of the first team. We’re jumping on the back of the rollercoaster a little bit, but that’s what’s been decided. We're here and I don't think we could have done too much more tonight."