CALLUM McGREGOR hailed his team-mates after the 2-1 derby success at Parkhead – but the Celtic skipper also admitted they gave themselves “a bit of a fright”.

The influential midfielder deservedly picked up the Man of the Match accolade after a dominant performance that offered the champions a launchpad for the triumph that eased them into an eight-point lead at the top of the Premiership.

Philippe Clement’s side just couldn’t get to grips with the 30-year-old Hoops inspiration as he dictated the tempo of play.

However, the hosts inexplicably took their foot off the gas when the Govan outfit went down to 10 men after Leon Balogun’s red card after he flattened Daizen Maeda as the Japanese speedster was racing clear on Jack Butland’s goal.

Referee Nick Walsh, who booked seven Celtic players in a keenly-contested encounter, had no option but to banish the defender.

FLYING THE FLAG…Celtic’s inspirational onfield leader Callum McGregor.

Strangely, the Hoops lost their rhythm around the time Paulo Bernardo was replaced by David Turnbull and then Brendan Rodgers made a triple switch in the 83rd minute when he sent on Hyeon-gyu, Liel Abada and Mikey Johnston for Kyogo Furuhashi, scorer of what turned out to be the winning goal, Maeda and Luis Palma.

McGregor, who, according to match statisticians, was successful in 60 of his 64 passes, said: “It was a massive win. Everyone knows what it means to the club and the supporters.

“First and foremost, that’s what you’re playing for – you’re playing for the pride and you’re playing for the city.”

The Scotland international, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “I thought for 75 minutes we were brilliant.

“They go down to 10 men and we should maybe have managed the game a little bit better and we gave ourselves a bit of a fright at the end, but you couldn’t ask for anymore from the players.

“The level and the intensity and the pressing was absolutely first class – everything you want in a derby game – and Paulo with the quality for the first goal just sets it off and sets the tone for us.

“So, it was a brilliant performance, a brilliant win and we just keep going now.”

McGregor also praised the prolific Kyogo and added: “I spoke about it the day before, that you’d back him to score in this game and he’s done it again.

APPLAUSE IN PARADISE…Kyogo Furuhashi accepts the acclaim of the joyous Celtic supporters after his winner.

“It’s outstanding. We speak about him all the time, the quality that he’s got and I’m glad he saved it for this one!

“But that set the tone for the second-half. We then got on top of them again and they lose composure a wee bit at that point.

“It was an important start to the second-half, it was a great victory, the fans can enjoy it and we’ll come back in tomorrow and get ready for another game at the start of the week.

“There’s no point winning on this occasion and then you drop points in a couple of days’ time. Of course, you want to win the big games, that’s what you want to do as a footballer, but you have to back that up.

“Every time we go on the pitch we have to show that we’re a hungry team and we’re ready to play and I thought we did that brilliantly.

“It’s another test of mentality in three days’ time and that’ll finish off the first half of the season. The boys can then enjoy a break and then we come back and go again.”


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