CALLUM McGregor savoured the sweetest goal of his career last night after once again proving he is the man for the big occasion at Celtic – then said he hoped new Scotland manager Alex McLeish was watching. The homegrown forward popped up in the 78th minute with the sublime piece of chest control and instant right foot finish from a sweet Charly Musonda pass which gave Celtic a priceless 1-0 first leg lead in this last 32 Europa League tie against Zenit St Petersburg. While the 24-year-old knows the tie is only halfway done ahead of the trip to Russia in seven days’ time, he feels Celtic proved a point here to the critics who savaged them following the home defeat to Anderlecht and can travel out to the historic Baltic sea port with confidence. 

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"I think it’s my best, in terms of a finish,” said McGregor of his sixth European goal in 31 appearances. “I’m obviously delighted to get 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 the big 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. But we’re absolutely delighted with a 1-0.

“Especially after the Anderlecht game there was a lot of criticism chucked at us,” added McGregor. “We knew on the 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. 

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"We knew they were just off the back of a break and sometimes teams coming here can be really uncomfortable in the first 20. 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 [McLeish] coming in tomorrow and hopefully if he watches that I have made a decent impact."