CAOIMHIN KELLEHER was Liverpool’s penalty kick hero as the Irish keeper led his side to four finals of the Carabao Cup.
Kelleher made two saves in the shootout, including in a vital sudden death effort from Ryan Bertrand, as Jurgen Klopp’s side bounced back from the brink of an exit to beat Leicester.
The Foxes took a 3-1 lead when Liverpool equalized with Takumi Minamino five minutes of injury time to send the quarter-finals to penalties.
Kelleher, 23, thought he had done enough when he thwarted Luke Thomas’s effort on Minamino’s pitch with the task of scoring the final penalty to win the game.
But the Japanese star blew up his attempt, sending it suddenly into shambles when defender Bertrand’s low shot was too weak. This time Diogo Jota made no mistake to win the draw.
The fact that Liverpool went through the game made the morale of the players go down even more and Leicester suddenly became more excited than anything coach Klopp had done.
He will single out players like Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino on the team but the message is loud and clear for his team with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane not even on the bench. .
That meant Leicester attacked the game like a team that knew it was coming – and they quickly took a two-goal lead.
Warning signs appeared when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall sent Patson Daka down the Liverpool defence, only to be denied by a clever save by Kelleher in the fifth minute.
Liverpool’s weakness in the middle of the defence, where Joe Gomez and Billy Koumetio’s debuts were both at sea, was undone in nine minutes.
Maddison dropped Vardy to the bottom of Koumetio and the veteran sent his low performance past Kelleher into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later, Leicester doubled their lead when the Reds were once again opened with a ball from midfield, this time from Dewsbury-Hall, freeing Daka, who squared for Vardy to score.
Liverpool were exposed to poor squad selections by their manager, but in fairness to the players, they dug deep to find a way back into the game in the 19th minute.
Firmino, on the pitch for the first time in two months, controlled the ball from eight yards and unleashed an Oxlade-Chamberlain pass to hit the bottom corner of the box.
Suddenly, the Anfield crowd found their voices and, behind the youth team, felt unlikely to return to level terms.
But that optimism was quelled by an absolute third goal for the Foxes.
There seemed little danger with Maddison in possession of the ball from 30 yards, but midfield took a few steps forward and unleashed a thunderous shot into the net after Kelleher stunned in goal.
Vardy then squandered a golden opportunity to close the game before half-time when he clamped the ball past Gomez, only to find his shot widening the post.
Still just two goals away, Liverpool sensed an opportunity and only a desperate late tackle from Caglar Soyuncu denied their equalizer – and because of his troubles, the defender injured his hamstring and had to leave the field.
Dejected Klopp threw in some more recognized quality in the shape of Diogo Jota and Naby Keita – while Rodgers decided to make a change on his own by making four subs.
This time, it was Rodgers who was at fault for trying to play the ball too skillfully, as in the 68th minute his side took a nap when Jota caught Minamino’s ball to pull the Reds back in round one.
Sublimation was given to Liverpool and they threw everything they could to try to score an equalizer, despite not creating any clear chances.
Then, in the fifth and sixth minute added in stoppage time, Liverpool unexpectedly equalized with Minamino at the back of the defense to fire a cannon into the bottom corner of the goal and send Leicester to pieces.
Liverpool will now face Arsenal in the fourth round, with the first leg taking place on January 3 at the Emirates, and the second leg a week later.
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/17120984/liverpool-3-leicester-3-carabao-cup/ Kelleher is Reds penalty hero as Klopp seals stunning Carabao return