Celtic 4-1 Hearts: Callum McGregor delighted with dominant display in opener

Callum McGregor celebrates
Callum McGregor capped a fine performance with a goal against Hearts

Callum McGregor insists champions Celtic sent out an early message to their Premiership rivals with a 4-1 hammering of Hearts.

McGregor crashed in his side's fourth of the day, adding to Leigh Griffiths' double and a Scott Sinclair goal.

"We wanted to put on a show for the first day of the season and we have done that," McGregor told BBC Scotland.

"It was important for us to hit the ground running and show the others we mean business."

Hearts, under interim head coach Jon Daly following the sacking of Ian Cathro, offered plenty of resistance but little threat in the first half.

Callum McGregor celebrates
McGregor beat Jack Hamilton with a fierce drive from the edge of the area

Griffiths broke the deadlock in 29 minutes and in the second half the champions cruised it, with Sinclair and Griffiths on target before McGregor's goal. Isma Goncalves replied late on for the visitors.

"In the first half they sat in and made things difficult," McGregor added. "We just had to be patient and play the way we do, and thankfully we got the goals in the end."

The 24-year-old was a stand-out performer in an impressive Celtic side and hopes to have done enough to stay in Brendan Rodgers' starting line-up.

"It is a big squad and big competition for places and you have got to be at your best to play," he said. "Hopefully that has shown the manager what I can do."

From Rodgers' point of view, McGregor is doing everything right.

"He had a big season last year," the Celtic manager said. "He quietly goes about his work and is an outstanding player. We don't sing too many songs about him but he comes in and trains well every day and can play in different positions.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers was delighted with McGregor's display

"He was unfortunate not to have another couple of goals today and he is a top talent. I enjoy working with him. You can see the confidence in his game, he understands how we function and I think this will be another important season for him."

Celtic completed a domestic treble without losing a match last season, and Rodgers was delighted with their start to the Premiership campaign.

"We wanted to make a mark and I thought the players were absolutely brilliant," he said. "We had to be patient - Hearts had a good structure and organisation, they were tight and compact.

"We had to pass and probe and eventually the space opened up. It was a very, very good performance and the start we wanted.

"The combination play was very good, we defended very well, pressed the game and forced Hearts to play a bit longer.

"Unfortunately we were only 1-0 up at half-time but we came out in the second half and just worked the ball, had good space in the team and created the chances. We got four and arguably could have got two or three more."

Daly took heart from aspects of the visitors' performance.

"Even at 4-0 down, the players showed character, they showed spirit and they kept going," said Daly. "It's very, very rare that you go 4-0 down at Celtic and you pull a goal back.

"We take the positives from the game and the fans were excellent. The fact that they stayed till the end and applauded the players off shows me and the players that they appreciate what they saw.

"Jamie Brandon was different class. Lewis [Moore] was excellent."

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