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  • McGregor fires Celtic to victory in Iceland

    McGregor fires Celtic to victory in Iceland

    By: Martin Dalziel in Iceland on 15 Jul, 2014 21:50

  • UEFA Champions League second round qualifier

    KR-Vollur, Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    CELTIC...1

    McGregor 84

     

    KR REYKJAVIK...0

    CELTIC made the perfect start to their UEFA Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win over Icelandic champions KR Reykjavik.

    Manager Ronny Deila named a strong starting line up in his first competitive match and handed a first team debut to U20s star Callum McGregor in midfield.

    The 21-year-old formed part of an attacking three alongside Kris Commons and Leigh Griffiths, who sat behind Stokes, and he was the man who eventually sealed victory for the Hoops.

    Celtic pressed well the entire game but struggled to find a way past a resolute KR defence but McGregor's brilliant individual effort on 84mins was enough to secure victory in Ronny Deila's first competitive game.

    The youngster was at the forefront of Celtic's play from the beginning and threatened first for the away side, winning Celtic’s first free kick of the game on the edge of the box after good skill drew a foul from the KR defence.

    Mulgrew’s chipped ball to the back post found van Dijk but his header skimmed off the back of his head and out for a goal kick.

    The Hoops held the ball well in the first 10 minutes, dominating possession and pressing high in the KR half.

    Lustig created a number of chances with crosses from the right but the packed KR defence cleared well every time.

    Another early chance came from Kris Commons when the Player of the Year reminded everyone why he has that title. The attacker rattled the KR cross bar with an incredible volley that dipped beyond Stefan Magnusson in the KR goal and almost put Celtic in the lead.

    Commons had another chance minutes later with a stinging shot to the KR keeper’s left post. Magnusson struggled to hold on to the effort and the ball went wide for a Celtic corner, which was eventually cleared.

    The Hoops controlled the game in the first half with Mulgrew pulling the strings. He tried a variation of passes in a bid to pull apart the KR defence but the home side defended well.

    Celtic maintained the ball well in midfield as KR looked to hit on the break through Gary Martin and Emil Atlason. The former had the best chance for the Icelandic champions on 23 minutes, when he gathered well outside the Celtic box but his low effort was watched all the way by Forster who gathered easily.

    Martin threatened again after latching on to a long ball over the Celtic defence but was flagged offside.

    Celtic continued to push for the opener with every player getting involved in the action.

    Wonderful one-touch passing from Commons and Stokes carved out an opening for the Irishman on the edge of the box but his volley went over the bar.

    The first half ended there, with Celtic frustrated by a resolute KR defence – passing and pressing well but not finding the breakthrough.

    The Hoops came out unchanged for the second half in terms of personnel but the style of play was completely different.

    Celtic came out flying after a brief attack from KR, with Commons lashing a right footed shot just over. Griffiths had a volley just over the bar form the resulting corner but Commons was on hand again to to see his effort go over also.

    Shot after shot rained down on the KR goal but Celtic couldn’t find the opener.

    Ronny Deila brought Teemu Pukki and Derk Boerrigter on to liven the attack but Commons remained the main protagonist with a number of efforts that could have put the Hoops into the lead.

    However, it was debutant McGregor who eventually broke the deadlock.

    The youngster showed great endeavour down the Celtic right flank and cut inside his defender onto his left foot. He feigned to shoot three times before eventually unleashing an unstoppable effort, low into the KR goal to give Celtic the lead.

    Celtic continued to press in search of a second and McGregor came close again but his shot from the edge of the box was blocked well.

    The champions controlled the game until the final whistle as KR's players began to tire in the face of the relentless onslaught.

    The Icelandic side found the energy for one last effort into the Celtic box but, fittingly, McGregor was on hand to smash the ball clear and stop the danger for Celtic.

    The Hoops now take a precious 1-0 lead into the home leg next Tuesday at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, where a home backing could fire the Scottish Champions to a much higher scoring victory.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Forster; Lustig, Ambrose, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Johansen, Mulgrew; Griffiths (Boerrigter 73), Commons, McGregor; Stokes (Pukki 73).

    Not used: Zaluska, Matthews, Henderson, Kayal, O'Connell.

    Website Man of the Match: Callum McGregor.

     

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