Caoimhin Kelleher impresses Jurgen Klopp with debut
Liverpool manager impressed by youngsters and the experienced James Milner
Liverpool’s Irish goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher in action against MK Dons. Photograph: Getty Images
Klopp altered his entire starting line-up from Sunday’s win at Chelsea but they were still too strong for their Sky Bet League One opposition, running out comfortable 2-0 winners as Harvey Elliott became the youngest player to start a competitive match for the club.
The 16-year-old put in an accomplished display and twice hit the crossbar as James Milner profited from terrible goalkeeping from Stuart Moore to put the Reds in front before young defender Ki-Jana Hoever wrapped up a comfortable win with his first goal for the club.
There was also a debut for 20 year-old Irish goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher and the Corkman impressed with two sharp saves.
“Kelleher, to be honest, these games are there so the boys show how good they are,” explained the Liverpool boss. “For a goalie, it’s quite difficult in a game like this but then being there having not a lot to do over the whole game and then having these kind of saves, that’s absolutely brilliant, so I’m happy about that as well.”
While there were plenty of positives to take from the youngsters, Klopp was also delighted with the performance from evergreen Milner as the 33-year-old set an example for his precocious team-mates to follow.
“This man is on fire,” Klopp replied when asked about Milner’s contribution.
“This is how it is, it is good. It helps a lot and he is a real role model for young players. If we could play every day he would be like this every day — that is how it is.
“The team had a lack of experience and a lack of rhythm and the player with the most experience and rhythm was the best player tonight.
“We were here to win the game, no other reason, so I am so happy we went through, that is cool.”
At the other end of the career spectrum, Elliott put in an accomplished display on his record-breaking Liverpool debut as he twice hit the crossbar.
“16 years old still and this kind of footballer, it is good for us,” added Klopp.
“(He is) a brilliant boy, takes the situation really well, wants to learn and he will always be a special player in moments but his overall game that is really, really good.
“He was a bit unlucky otherwise he would have scored, he is a good player but they are all good, we have no bad young players and that is why it is important we can give them these matches and try to continue like this.”
Liverpool’s reward is a visit from Unai Emery’s Arsenal in the next round — the Gunners having already been turned over 3-1 in the Premier League meeting at Anfield earlier this season.
MK Dons boss Paul Tisdale was pleased with the effort of his players, who saw several decent chances fall by the wayside — with Jordan Bowery’s late shot off the post the closest the hosts came to a goal.
Asked how he viewed the evening, Tisdale replied: “Overall pretty good, I was proud of the way they played and I’m disappointed for them that we didn’t score a goal. Whether we deserved to score a goal or not I’m not sure but they deserved a goal.
“That is football. But I am really proud with the way we played, I regret not getting in at half-time 0-0, it was a position-based performance about keeping it tight.”