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Klopp’s bold Champions League declaration as he praises Liverpool youngsters

Jurgen Klopp praised his fresh-faced heroes, as his bold gamble on youth paid dividends to put Liverpool through to the Champions League knock out stage.

The Reds boss took a risk by replacing injured keeper Alisson – yet another muscle damage victim in a nightmare campaign for the Reds – with 22 year-old Caoimhín Kelleher, handing the Irish youngster a first European start in the process.

And he also gave 19 year-old Curtis Jones a starring role in midfield, with both products of the Anfield academy producing influential performances.

Jones, who looks a star in the making, but it was Kelleher, preferred ahead of the vastly more experienced reserve keeper Adrian, who took even more plaudits, with some outstanding stops, including one impossible save in the dying seconds.

And a proud Klopp said: “Honestly since I was at Liverpool that feels like one of the biggest Champions League nights.

“Without supporters in, it was the most important, most difficult, most exceptional.

Curtis Jones spins away after scoring the winner

“With the circumstances, there hasn’t been much to smile about, it’s been tricky, and the boys throw themselves into the game. Curtis Jones, what a game, It’s amazing, I’m really proud.

“Curtis is a really good kid, a good player and I am happy to have him around.

“Sometimes with injuries there is always an opportunity and he has taken it.”

He also had special praise for Kelleher, when he added: “I really think Adrian has done a fantastic job for us, he kept a lot of clean sheets, played everywhere.

Jurgen Klopp with young stopper Caoimhin Kelleher at full time

“But now we needed the natural football playing ability of Caoimhin Kelleher. Top, top, top. It was easy to decide, because he deserves it.

“He is a top talent and a really good shot stopper as well. We made that decision but you never know how they are going to cope.

“I am really happy with how calm he was and how good he was. It was outstanding.”

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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.

Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.

But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.

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It was Kelleher who proved the manager’s judgement correct.

The Republic of Ireland keeper was delighted with his display, and he said: “It was an amazing moment for me, to make my debut especially in a Champions League game was massive for me.

“The most important thing was to get the win and qualify which we did, so it was a great night.

“I’m prepared – that is what I’m there for. Thankfully I was able to make a good few saves in this game.

“The younger players are not just here to take part, we want to push on and play as many games as we can. You can see we are making a difference and improving the team as well.”

It wasn’t all good news for Klopp, though, who said there were more injury woes.

“Robbo has a proper, proper knock on the ankle and pushes himself through, Hendo with a stiff back pushes himself through, Gini – I have no words for him.

“Andy Robertson and Jordan both played through though, so at the moment I am positive about it, because we have a few extra days after this game.

“But I don’t know at this stage.”

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