JOHANNESBURG – Micho Sredojevic has distanced himself from the officials’ questionable decision during their 0-0 draw against Esperance in the Caf Champions League at home on Saturday night.
He insisted that he has shifted his focus to the Soweto Derby on Saturday, and the return leg against the reigning African champions next Tuesday.
Pirates should have gone into halftime with at least a 1-0 lead, but Justin Shonga’s goal was ruled offside by the officials, while replays showed that he was, in fact, onside.
Sredojevic, though, is not crying over spilt milk as he believes that the point they gained against the African champions will be a huge morale-booster as they prepare for the Soweto derby against arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
“My job, together with the technical team, is to coach and prepare the players. I don’t belong to the people who are looking elsewhere (the analysts),” he said.
“Even if I said something negative, that would not help us in whatever way.
“We need to re-analyse how we can get better because of the match against (Kaizer) Chiefs, and Esperance will demand better performances than today, and that’s what we are looking at.”
For now, the points that the Bucs gained against the Tunisian giants were invaluable as they remain on top of Group B, with one win and two draws.
Furthermore, their return clash against Esperance will test their mental strength and character, as the encounter will be played behind closed doors due to Caf having sanctioned Esperance for their supporters’ behaviour during last season’s group stage qualifiers against Gor Mahia.
But according to Esperance’s coach, Mouine Chaabani, this will probably give the Buccaneers a big boost as the home team will be without one of their biggest threats – their intimidating home crowd, which is filled with supporters wielding lasers and trying to blind their team’s opponents.
“It will be a big disadvantage for us (not to play in front of our supporters), because we rely on them,” Chaabani said.
“They are the 12th man on the field of play, and they motivate us to play even better.”
Pirates also have the advantage of not having lost to Esperance in their last three meetings.
Furthermore, it was at the expense of the Tunisians that they made the 2013 Champions League final after the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in the return leg of the semi-finals in Tunisia, as that sent Pirates to the last round on the away-goal rule.
A lot has happened since then, though, with Happy Jele and Thabo Matlaba the only players left from the squad that lost to Al Ahly SC in the final.
But Sredojevic, who led Pirates to the semi-finals of the continental competition in 2006 during his first stint with the club, believes that the personnel at their disposal will do everything necessary to progress to the next stage of the competition.
“The 2016/2017 season was terrible for us, but last season we fought, and now we are here. And we gave a good account of ourselves against the African champions,” he said.
“But this will be a different ball game as both teams are fighting for points, instead of the away-goal rule. But we are ready for all this, and we’ll play to get the best result there.”@Mihlalibaleka