By: Mark Henderson in Iceland on 15 Jul, 2014 23:20
RONNY Deila heaped praise on Callum McGregor after the midfielder enjoyed a dream debut by firing Celtic to victory away to KR Reykjavik in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
Both Kris Commons and Leigh Griffiths hit the woodwork as the Scottish champions dominated possession and piled on the pressure against the hosts.
But a breakthrough remained elusive until six minutes remaining on the clock, when the 21-year-old skilfully evaded two challenges and drilled a low shot into the net, capping off an impressive performance from the Celtic Youth Academy graduate.
Speaking after the game, the manager said “He did well on his debut in an important match like this. He has big talent but I want him to be more direct, go forward and link up more with the full-backs – but that will come and I was very happy for him to score a goal.
“We have a lot of players who are good going behind the defence, like Leigh and Derk. They can play in a 4-2-3-1 as well, but they are more players who play in a 4-3-3 as they are more forward players.
“We need wingers who can also get on the ball and get in between the lines and do things and Callum is perfect for that. He has a quick touch – a little bit like Kris – and he’s calm on the ball and has a good understanding. He also scores goals. He deserved to play and that’s why he played for the 90 minutes.”
“I had decided to play him in the earlier as I knew he was the best in that position right now – that wasn’t a hard decision.
“I needed good defensive work and that’s a challenge we have when we play 4-2-3-1 – to get wingers working both ways. That will be important when we play a better team than Reykjavik.”
McGregor’s moment of magic also ensured the Hoops boss recorded a victory in his first competitive game at the helm, putting the Scottish champions in pole position for next week’s second leg at the BT Murrayfield Stadium.
And the Norwegian spoke of his satisfaction at the overall performance in Iceland, particularly in the second half.
“I’m happy we won the game, but I’m most happy about the performance,” he said. “Over the 90 minutes our defence was very good and never gave any chances to our opponents. We wanted to win the ball back as soon as we lost it. We had about 70 per cent possession which is perfect.
“The first half was a bit sleepy for me with two much sideways play – which I hate. In the second half we started to penetrate more, opened them up and began to get chances.
“We also had a clean sheet. We should be more effective but in pre-season we were scoring with every chance and tonight we were a bit unlucky at times. Overall, I’m very happy with the performance.”