CALLUM McGREGOR played his usual pivotal role as he propelled Scotland to a dramatic 2-1 comeback triumph over Republic of Ireland at Hampden last night.
The Celtic skipper has seen Steve Clarke’s men reclaim pole position from Ukraine after their main rivalryls’ 5-0 victory over Armenia earlier in the day.
The Scots were shaken in 18 minutes when John Egan fired the visitors ahead with a first-time drive that eluded Craig Gordon at his right-hand post.
ON THE RUN…Callum McGregor patrols the Scotland midfield against Republic of Ireland.
However, that was wiped out when Jack Hendry thumped in a header for the equaliser five minutes after the turnaround and his former Hoops team-mate Ryan Christie slotted away a penalty-kick winner eight minutes from the end after a Scott McTominay effort had been handled by defender Alan Brown.
Now all eyes are on Krakow on Tuesday night when they meet the Ukrainians for the second time in seven days in the final group game. Goals from John McGinn and Lyndon Dykes gave Clarke’s players a 3-0 home victory during the week.
The Scots are on a revenge mission after the war-torn country beat them 3-1 in the World Cup play-off in Glasgow in June before they were beaten by Wales in the final outing as the teams assembled for the Qatar showpiece on November 21-December 18.
McGregor said: “It was a high-pressure game in the summer with the narrative around it. Everyone was hyping the game up. As a squad, we need to learn to deal with those situations better.
NUMBER ONE…Jack Hendry thumps a header past Irish keeper Gavin Bazumu for the equaliser.
NUMBER TWO…Ryan Christie calmly slots his penalty-kick into the net for the winner.
“In terms of high-pressure games, play-offs, semi-finals, there is a lot on the line so that’s something we need to learn to deal with as a group.
“When we had the chance on Wednesday to try to level the score a bit, there was probably more emphasis on the tactical side of the game and the football, actually going and playing the game properly.
“We will learn that as a group and that’s how you deal with things. When you get disappointment you have to go again and be strong.”
McGregor, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “This gives us the chance to try to level the score a bit against Ukraine. It was disappointing what happened in the summer.
“Football is a good game in that sense as it gives you little chances to even the score and we need to try to frame it that way as well.
“We want to finish this group positively and if we can qualify then that would be excellent.
TWISTS AND TURNS…Greg Taylor clears up an Irish attack.
A BIG HAND…Callum McGregor applauds the Tartan Army at Hampden.
“It gives you a safety net as we qualified the last time through the Nations League. When the campaign comes around we want to be on the front foot and qualify out of our group.
“But if we can finish this block successfully then it gives us a safety net, which we might need.”
The Hoops’ onfield leader added: “It will be difficult going away from home, but, as long as the intent is there to go and win and the performance is similar to Wednesday, then there’s no reason why we can’t succeed.
“That’s how football works. You need to stay calm, stay level-headed. It was a good result and performance, but that’s it finished.
“We need to reset and go again.”
McGregor was joined at the national stadium by club team-mates Anthony Ralston and Greg Taylor who came on for injured duo Aaron Hickey and Kieran Tierney.
Like their Celtic skipper, the full-backs responded superbly to the challenge and both could start in Poland on Tuesday.