Johannesburg – With one foot in the next round, Roger de Sa says he is pleased with the progress his Orlando Pirates team has made in the African Champions League.
The Buccanneers rose to a 3-1 victory in their first-leg last 16 match over much-fancied Congolese outfit TP Mazembe at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, courtesy of a brace from Collins Mbesuma and an early Oyekachi Okonkwo goal.
“It's a long way to go, but I'm just happy we've gone further than we have in recent seasons,” De Sa said.
“At least the result was very positive, which was great.”
Mazembe would always have been a difficult prospect, even away from home, according to De Sa.
“We know they can play from the videos we watched,” he said.
“They're a good team, they play good football, and they have very good players.”
Pirates, the only South African side to have won the continental title, began the match at a fast pace, and were rewarded shortly after the first whistle as they maintained their tempo.
“We played with two holding midfielders and played with a bit of speed. We also played Tlou Segolela because of his speed,” De Sa said.
“We tried to keep compact at the back. They had one chance, and bang they scored. We had about five.”
Pirates were awarded a penalty in injury time, which Mbesuma duly converted. Had they not been given the spot-kick, it would have been a completely different prospect in the second leg.
Even with the two-goal cushion, De Sa said the return leg would be tricky.
“It's going to be very tough playing them away.
“My disappointment was the goal we conceded. Conceding really gave them an opportunity.”
De Sa, however, did believe the Congolese side were vulnerable in defence.
“I don't think they're as solid at the back as they are in attack. You could see they had flaws at the back.”
Playing in the African competition – and not the local Premiership where Pirates are winless in their last six games – required a totally different approach, according to De Sa.
“It's a different competition to play in,” he said.
“The travelling is hard, the focus, the football is quite different, the refereeing is quite different.
“The players have to enjoy it. It's more of a mental challenge than a football challenge.” – Sapa