Callum McGregor says Celtic’s key principles paid off against Rangers
Callum McGregor claims three key principles of Celtic’s football philosophy led to the winning goal amid the “chaos” of Sunday’s Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.
The Light Blues, who went into the game at Hampden Park as cup holders, were punished just before the break for failing to play to the whistle.
After the Hoops captain took a quick free-kick to Matt O’Riley, several Rangers players switched off when the ball ran loose inside the box when the Celtic midfielder was challenged by Nicolas Raskin.
Celtic attacker Daizen Maeda reacted quickly to fire in a cross which was headed in by Portuguese winger Jota to set up a meeting in the final with Championship side Inverness on June 3.
“That was the pleasing thing again,” said McGregor.
“In such a high-stakes game, the emotions surrounding the game, both teams desperate to win, there is the three principles of our play in the goal.
“Quick restart, react quicker to the counter press, and then we get the winger coming in at the back post to get his header in.
“So it is really pleasing that in the midst of all the chaos you manage to stay calm and score a goal that’s a lot like we have been doing.
“It was a great result. Spells were really good and to show the other side of us in the second half, we were together, defended the box really well, good team shape and pressed at the right time.
“Overall, a bit of everything in there and most important of all in a semi-final, you get yourself to a final.”
Indeed, McGregor stressed the quality of the defensive side of the Hoops’ performance, which was as impressive as Celtic’s usual attacking prowess which has taken them to the brink of a domestic treble.
The Scotland international said: “It is a mentality thing. You have to be ready for everything that happens in the game.
“All week we had been talking about trying to dominate the game with the ball and impose our style which I thought we did for large spells of the first half.
“But the game is always live, it keeps changing, they changed shape and then the momentum of the game swings and you have to get to grips with that and we had to defend the box a little bit more than we would normally do.
“But the really pleasing thing you see is the togetherness of the team, boys putting their bodies on the line.
“Ali Johnston, CCD (Cameron Carter-Vickers), Carl Starfelt, Greg Taylor, making big blocks at big times and that is the foundation for a good team, you have to be really strong defensively.
“Successful teams that do good things are built on solid defensive structure and principles and we have always had that.
“Of course we have played good football this season and scored a lot of goals but we have always had that defensive side.
“If you look back at any of the big games, we have mostly been really sound and have had good principles in the way we defend.”