Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round, 1st Leg
KR Reykjavik 0 Celtic 1
Ronny Deila’s tenure as Celtic boss began with a narrow but deserved win in the first leg of their Champions League second round qualifier against KR Reykjavik, thanks to a late goal from debutant Callum McGregor.
The Norwegian’s first competitive game since taking over from Neil Lennon last month took place in the somewhat surreal surroundings of the KR-vollur stadium in Iceland.
The Scottish champions controlled the first half, with Kris Commons hitting the bar, but they could not fashion the breakthrough.
Leigh Griffiths and substitute Teemu Pukki also hit the woodwork in the second half before 21-year-old McGregor, making his first competitive start for the Hoops, drilled a shot low past home goalkeeper Stefan Magnusson with seven minutes remaining.
With Celtic Park out of commission due to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the return fixture will be at Murrayfield in Edinburgh next Tuesday night.
The home side were let off the hook in the ninth minute when Commons rattled the bar from 25 yards with a dipping volley.
Moments later, the former Nottingham Forest and Derby player stung the palms of Magnusson with a powerful drive.
It seemed a matter of time before the Hoops would get in front.
Anthony Stokes fired a 30-yard free-kick just over before Griffiths smacked the underside of the bar with a vicious drive from the edge of the box.
In the 74th minute Deila introduced Pukki and Derk Boerrigter for Stokes and Griffiths in his bid to find a goal.
As the home side found themselves with their backs against the wall, Pukki hit the post after Magnusson had made a double save from Commons and McGregor.
The visitors kept pushing for the opener and Boerrigter was the next Hoops player to be foiled by Magnusson before McGregor turned past three players to fire in a low drive which found the net, to the relief of the visiting fans and, no doubt, Deila.
KR REYKJAVIK: Magnusson, Haukur Hauksson, Josepsson, Gretar Sigurdsson, Gudmundur Gunnarsson, Atlason (Ormarsson 88), Saevarsson, Baldur Sigurdsson, Lorenzo (Zato 58), Finnbogason, Martin (Thorsteinn Ragnarsson 81).
CELTIC: Forster, Lustig, van Dijk, Ambrose, Izaguirre, Griffiths (Boerrigter 74), Johansen, Mulgrew, McGregor, Commons, Stokes (Pukki 74).
Referee: Andreas Pappas (Greece).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved