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It was an honour to lead out Celtic and fight for our Euro dream, says McGregor

Champions League qualifying

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Callum McGregor. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Callum McGregor. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

PA

Ange Postecoglou. Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

Ange Postecoglou. Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

PA

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Callum McGregor. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Callum McGregor enjoyed the “absolutely amazing” experience of running out as the new Celtic captain against Midtjylland and insists Champions League aspirations are still alive.

The midfielder was named as former skipper Scott Brown’s replacement earlier in the week and led Ange Postecoglou’s team out in front of 9,000 fans at Parkhead on Tuesday night in the first leg of the second qualifier.

It was the biggest crowd inside Celtic Park since coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March 2020 and they cheered long and loud when new signing Liel Abada, the 19-year-old Israeli winger, marked his competitive debut in the 37th minute by giving the home side the lead.

Celtic defender Nir Bitton was sent off before the break for picking up two yellow cards - the second for remonstrating with Anders Dreyer for diving - and the Midtjylland winger followed him early in the second half after picking up his second simulation yellow.

The Scottish Premiership side had chances to stretch their lead before Evander levelled for the Danish side in the 66th minute with a free-kick and the match finished 1-1 to set up nicely next week’s second leg in Denmark.

McGregor, sponsors’ man of the match, said of his first competitive game as the Parkhead club’s new leader: “Absolutely amazing. What an honour to run out with the armband with 9,000 fans back in.

“They made a hell of a noise, backed the team unbelievably.

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“We are just a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t get the win, I thought everyone deserved it.

“It was a good starting point, the boys gave everything, there was enough quality there and we controlled the game and we take that into next week and finish the job.

“We are still in the tie and we have another leg to do the business.”

Celtic appeared in control of the game when they conceded a free-kick down the left channel that allowed Evander to whip in a free-kick which beat everyone on its way into the net.

McGregor said: “Football at this level is fine margins and we spoke about that before the game. it might be a set-piece and that was the difference to get them back in the game.

“I thought we were the better team but it is fine margins at this level.”

Meanwhile, Celtic will be allowed around 18,500 fans inside Parkhead for the friendly against West Ham United on Saturday.

After 2,000 fans attended the friendly against Preston at the weekend, 9,000 came through the Celtic Park gates on Tuesday night for the first leg of the Champions League qualifier against Midtjylland.

Celtic confirmed the increased figure for the Hammers game following a meeting with the local Safety Advisory Group and were “encouraged by the indicative figure of around 24,500 for the subsequent home game”.

A Celtic statement read: “We were delighted to have our supporters with us last night for the game against FC Midtjylland, and we really look forward to welcoming our fans once again for the match this Saturday.

“We can assure our supporters we will be doing all we can to work closely with the relevant authorities and welcome our fans back in even greater numbers in the coming weeks.

“Details on match ticket balloting for West Ham United will be shared in the next 24 hours, but in the meantime we ask that you continue to familiarise yourself with our new protocols for reduced capacity matches at Celtic Park.

“We want nothing more than to welcome as many fans back to the stadium as quickly as possible, and therefore appreciate your patience as we continue to work behind the scenes to make that happen.”


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