Newly appointed Orlando Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic praised the Black Aces for their strong performance against the Soweto giants on Tuesday night. Photo: Andrej Isakovic

Johannesburg – Newly appointed Orlando Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic admits he is surprised by the improvement made by Mpumalanga Black Aces over the last few seasons.

Aces held Pirates to a 1-1 draw in Nelspruit on Tuesday night and continued their charge up the Premiership standings with a four-match unbeaten run, in an attempt to cement themselves in the top half of the table.

Vermezovic, in his third match in charge of Bucs, said the hosts were a far better side than they were when they last played in the top-flight league in the 2010/11 season, when the Serbian coach was at the helm of Kaizer Chiefs.

“I think it was a very real game. Both sides played a very organised and tactical approach and it was at a high level,” Vermezovic said.

“They are a good team. I was surprised because this is not Black Aces that I knew from three or four years ago.

“Congratulations to them. With a good coach they can go far.”

Aces mentor Clive Barker, appointed by the club this season after they gained promotion to the Premiership following a two-year absence, was delighted with the result against the Soweto giants.

He also praised the Buccaneers for putting up a fight after a long season, which included a fine run of form in the African Champions League where they reached he final.

“I think both sides are to be credited for the way they tried to have a go. There must have been a lot of saves by both goalkeepers,” Barker said.

“All credit to Pirates. They’ve had a helluva year and they set the foundation of what we expect in our league.

“I think they really came out with a terrific game and they played well.

“It was a wonderful game all round and I’m delighted with a point.”

While Bucs, who were fourth in the standings before the midweek fixtures, lost further ground in the race for the league title, Vermezovic remained confident they would regain their composure.

He again admitted his players were fatigued in the latter stages of a lengthy campaign.

“It’s not easy, as I said before the game, because they are empty and too tired,” he said.

“They’ve already played 35 or 36 games and our main players are not here. We have a lot of injured players.

“But we will get there. We must keep talking and working with them and they will get there.” – Sapa