JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates’ coach, Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, was diplomatic after the Buccaneers were denied a legitimate goal and a decent penalty shout which resulted in them being held to a goalless draw by Esperance.
The Buccaneers dominated the African champions, creating enough chances to put daylight between the two sides. But their poor finishing and an alert Rami Jridi in goal denied Pirates maximum points. Pirates kept their place at the summit of Group B in the CAF Champions League at the halfway mark with five points from three matches.
“We have worked very hard to reach this level of the competition,” Sredojevic said. “We remember that the 2016/17 season was a terrible season (for the club). Last season we fought, and now we are here. We played, and you shouldn’t forget, the champions of Africa. When you have that in mind, I believe that we gave a good account of ourselves.
We did everything that was needed to win the game, except scoring that goal. In all aspects of the game, we outplayed the opponent but we didn’t outscore them. I would like to give credit to the players. They followed our instructions to the last detail. It was a tough match.”
Pirates will have an even tougher couple of days which will culminate in their clash with Esperance in Tunisia next week behind closed doors. The Buccaneers have to quickly put the disappointment of this draw aside and prepare to take on their arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday.
The Soweto Derby will be played in front of a packed crowd at FNB Stadium in the warm Johannesburg summer.
Pirates will then fly to Tunisia to take on Esperance in the middle of winter, and behind closed doors - as part of the Tunisian’s punishment for their fans’ violence last season. The only positive for Pirates is that they won’t have to deal with lasers which are synonymous with north Africans football.
“It (playing behind closed doors) will be a big disadvantage for us. We rely on our supporters, who in many cases are the 12th men on the field. They motivate us to play and push us to do better,” Esperance coach Moine Chaabani said.
Pirates have a good record against Esperance. The Soweto giants are unbeaten in their last three meetings with the 28-time Tunisian champions. The Sea Robbers eliminated Esperance on the away goal rule in the semi-final of the 2013 Champions League to sail to the final.
“It is a totally different ball game,” Sredojevic said, in response to whether he is motivated by what Pirates did the last time they visited Esperance.
“In 2013 it was the semi-final of the Champions League, where the away goal counted and Pirates proceeded to the final. This is a game in the group stage. I believe that we were much closer (to getting maximum points). Our target is to go to the quarter-finals.
We know that it will be very hard in Tunis.”