CRESTFALLEN Callum McGregor admits Celtic are at a crucial crossroads after the disappointment of failing to clear the first Viaplay League Cup hurdle against Kilmarnock.

The holders saw their two-year grip on ths silverware loosened in a distinctly off-colour and uninspired performance at Rugby Park where they collapsed 1-0 to Marley Watkins’ strike just before the hour mark.

It was a wretched display from Brendan Rodgers’ side as the Irishman suffered his first domestic Cup defeat in 25 outings after his seven successive trophies in his first stint at the club.

The Hoops were without injured trio Alistair Johnston, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate who would all have started the game against a fired-up Killie.

CROSSROADS…Callum McGregor stares defeat in the face at Rugby Park.

Back-up central defender Stephen Welsh, who signed a new four-year contract on Friday, also sustained an injury in training which could see him sidelined for “three of four months,” according to his manager.

Rodgers was forced to throw in new Bhoy Gustaf Lagerbiekle, signed four days earlier, for a quickfire debut at a dodgy venue.

The Swede, who performed reasonably well in the trying circumstances, teamed up in the heart of the defence alongside Pole Maik Nawrocki, who joined the champions from Legia Warsaw 26 days ago.

It had all the ingredients for a disaster – and Derek McInnes’ dour, but well-drilled team, took full advantage.

Captain McGregor, who also failed to shine alongside the likes of Greg Taylor, Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda, summed up the awful showing from the visitors: “Not good enough.

“Celtic teams have to play with a certain level of personality and quality and we didn’t do that.

“But it’s a reminder to everyone that you don’t just have the God-given right to turn up and win trebles. It’s not easy.

BOOKED…Callum McGregor has no argument as referee Alan Muir flashes the tellow card.

“You come here and have to fight and find a way to win the game and we didn’t do that. We didn’t have enough quality, so that’s disappointing for sure.

“But we have to learn from it.”

McGregor, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “We’re at a crossroads now in the season, similar to maybe where we were two years ago when the new manager came in.

“It’s important everyone sticks together, we find the solutions, we find the answers to the problems that lie on the pitch.

“And it serves as a reminder that every time you cross the line you have to give everything.”

Brendan Rodgers admitted after the match that the plastic pitch makes life difficult, but it was the same surface upon which Celtic fired in nine goals in two Premiership outings last term, winning 5-0 in August and 4-1 in April.

McGregor didn’t want to point the finger at the artificial set-up and added: “We’re not going to make excuses about the pitch being dry and all these things.

“We came here last year and won. It just shows you have to be at that level every time.

“We speak about this leading into Cup games and our record over so many years now has been very good.

SHOVING MATCH…Maik Nawrocki and Killie matchwinner Marley Watkins in a challenge for the ball.

“But that’s because you turn up and play. You don’t get any second chances.

“And now the lads realise that in Cup competitions you have to be on the money, regardless of where you go, what stadium it is or what opponent it is.

“You have to find a way to win those games. It’s gone and it’s hugely disappointing. Everybody will feel it.

“None more so the than the players, the manager and the supporters.

“It’s a crossroads moment and you can’t let it fester or snowball into two, three or four games.

“You need to find something within yourself to go and put this right.”


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