MATCHWINNER Callum McGregor hailed boss Brendan Rodgers’ “perfect game plan” after scoring the glorious goal that gave Celtic a 1-0 Europa League triumph over Zenit St Petersburg.
The midfielder volleyed in the 78th minute after taking a sweet Charly Musonda lobbed pass on his chest and striking an unstoppable right foot effort high into the net.
The 24-year-old Scotland international realises the tie is only halfway done ahead of the trip to Russia on Thursday, but he feels the Hoops proved a point to the critics who took them apart following the dismal 1-0 loss to Anderlecht in the final Champions League qualifier.
McGregor, who has now netted six goals in 31 European appearances, said: “I’m obviously delighted with the finish and I’m always trying to add that to my game – goals in big games.
“I really wanted to make my mark, especially when the manager puts his trust in you for these sort of games.
“You’ve got to prove to everybody he was right to pick you. First and foremost, it was a great team performance. But I was obviously delighted with my performance, too.
“It was a great ball from Charly, the wee man’s got that quality and he’s showed it since he came in.
“He spots a great pass, he’s lofted one over and I’ve taken it on the chest. I tried to hit it early and, thankfully, it’s gone in. To be fair, I just swung a leg at it!
“We’re happy with a clean sheet and would’ve taken a zero-zero to take over there.
“However, we’re absolutely delighted with a 1-0 – especially after the Anderlecht game there was a lot of criticism chucked at us.
“We knew on that particular night it wasn’t great, but the objective was to try to qualify from the group on some level. It was important to get European football after Christmas and obviously we did that – although not at the level we would have liked.
“This being our first game back there was a bit of pressure on the lads, so I thought we answered it brilliantly with the way we pressed the game and the way we played.
“We knew they were just off the back of a break and sometimes teams coming here can be really uncomfortable in the first 20 minutes.
“We set the tempo with that, by getting up and pressing and when we had the ball we played really well. We grew in confidence, they started to tire a little bit and we got the goal, so it was a prefect game plan for us.
“Going into next week we are confident, we know we can play against them and we are confident of getting the result.
“As I’ve always said, first and foremost I look after my Celtic stuff and the international stuff is always a bonus.
“But there’s a new manager, Alex McLeish, coming in tomorrow and, hopefully, if he watched that then I have made a decent impact.”