Football

Goalkeeper Adrian goes from free agent to Super Cup winner in 10 days

Liverpool's second-choice goalkeeper Adrian emerges as their shoot-out hero

Just two weeks ago, Spanish goalkeeper Adrian was without a club.

Released by West Ham United at the end of last season, the 32-year-old was one of the many free agents searching for new employers.

But, yesterday morning (Singapore time), he had a Uefa Super Cup winner's medal slung around his neck after emerging as Liverpool's saviour in their 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea.

Adrian was handed a lifeline on Aug 5 by Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who drafted him as back-up to Brazilian first-choice Alisson after Simon Mignolet joined Club Brugge.

A season of warming the bench, with perhaps some Cup appearances awaited but, during Liverpool's opening English Premier League game against Norwich City last Friday, Alisson suffered a calf injury and Adrian was thrust into the action at Anfield.

He was then given the starting job in the annual clash between the Champions League winners and the Europa League victors and, after the game ended 2-2, he saved the decisive final penalty, blocking Tammy Abraham's shot with his legs.

Klopp mimicked Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies when he yelled "Adrian!" into the television microphone and he was clearly appreciative of his goalkeeper's efforts.

"What a story. He kept his nerves together," Klopp said.

"He's loud in the dressing room already. I don't think he's won a lot in his life, so it's good for him to win it.

"He made some unbelievable saves, both goalkeepers did, so I'm really happy for him."

Klopp admitted that he didn't know where Adrian was two weeks ago, adding: "When I spoke to him for the first time, it was clear he would need time to get fit.

"But we didn't have that time. So he has to be fit now and he was fit, he played an incredible game, he made sensational saves."

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said he had backed his new colleague to win them the game.

"I told Adrian before penalties he could be the hero and he did it, so I'm happy for him and for the club," said van Dijk.

Adrian himself acknowledged that he had undergone a whirlwind few days.

The former Real Betis custodian had once been a regular for West Ham, but did not play in last season's EPL. His last appearance before arriving at Anfield had been an FA Cup defeat by third-tier AFC Wimbledon in January.

"Welcome to Liverpool!" he told BT Sport.

"It was a crazy week but, with (my teammates), it's so easy playing at the back.

"I'm really happy for the team to get the trophy. I'm really happy to play for Liverpool and really happy for the fans.

"It was a long game but, at the end, it was a great finish for us."

The Uefa showpiece at Besiktas' Vodafone Park in Istanbul started Chelsea's way, though.

French striker Olivier Giroud gave the Blues the lead in the 36th minute, after latching on to a through-ball from Christian Pulisic. The American then beat Adrian with a fine shot after a swift run down the flank, but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Roberto Firmino, who was introduced after the break, sparked the Reds' comeback.

He poked the ball past the advancing Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Sadio Mane tapped into the unguarded goal to make it 1-1 in the 49th minute.

Mason Mount then had another Chelsea effort ruled out for offside, leaving the teams level after 90 minutes.

Mane gave Liverpool the lead five minutes into extra-time, driving home after an exchange with Firmino.

Adrian, who made notable interventions during the game, diving at the feet of Mateo Kovacic in the first half, then fouled Abraham to give away a 101st-minute penalty. Jorginho scored from the spot to make it 2-2, forcing the shoot-out, where Adrian made amends.

"In penalty shoot-outs, you're always lucky, but his performance over 120 minutes was incredible, making the save from the penalty was the icing on the cake," said Klopp.

"He helped us a lot and he can be really proud of what he did tonight." - REUTERS, AFP

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