at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg – Orlando Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic has come out in defence of his players’ lacklustre performance in a laborious win over Maritzburg United on Tuesday, citing both mental and physical fatigue.
Second half replacement Helder Pelembe scored four minutes from the end to snatch a 1-0 victory over the visiting Team of Choice at Orlando Stadium.
The victory handed Pirates three valuable points, lifting them back to fourth place in the league standings.
“It was a very difficult game for us – three days ago we played against Mamelodi Sundowns and they (Pirates players) were emotional, empty you know, physically too, and it was difficult to play,” Vermezovic said after the game in Soweto.
“It was a very important three points for us, now we can breathe and we wait for the next game against Bloemfontein Celtic. Maybe two or three wins to secure our place in the top eight and we will go for it for sure.”
Pelembe netted the winner to help the Buccaneers limp over the finish-line and back in contention for a top four finish.
Pirates suffered consecutive league defeats to Mpumalanga Black Aces and SuperSport United before Tuesday’s victory, failing to score in both outings.
Vermezovic felt his troops had atoned for those disappointments following a quarter-final victory over Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup before edging Maritzburg three days later.
“We came from back-to-back defeats in the league, now we are on back-to-back wins so it’s good for us going into the Celtic game,” he said.
The Serbian mentor admitted his strikers, particularly Lehlohonolo Majoro and Collins Mbesuma, were not performing at their best and were rested as a result.
“Some of them didn’t play for a long time and now is a crucial period in the championship and we can’t take any risks,” Vermezovic said.
“We are going to play only with 100 percent ready players and they know that.
“In the meantime we will play some friendly games to see if some of them can get the form to play a serious game.” – Sapa