JOHANNESBURG – With the Absa Premiership matches coming thick and fast, and the pretenders separated from the real contenders, Micho Sredojevic is thrilled that they passed their first hurdle of the three matches that he viewed as a test their mental endurance in their pursuit to challenge for league honours this season.
On Saturday, the Orlando Pirates’ coach led his troops to a 1-0 in over fellow title contenders Bidvest Wits, as they marched to the summit of the 16-team league table on goal difference. The Bucs are on the same points as defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
With that match out of the way, Sredojevic and his troops will welcome relegation threatened Black Leopards to Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night before hosting Free State Stars - another team that faces the axe - at the same venue on Saturday night.
“Black Leopards and Free State Stars are fighting relegation. I’ve called this week ‘three doors of hell that we need to open in order to open the doors of heaven’,” Sredojevic said in the post-match reactions on Saturday. “The first door has been opened, and let us see what will happen with the two remaining games ahead of us this week.”
While Sredojevic has been mum about their interest to challenge for the league honours this season, he admitted that they’ve always kept their eyes on the sought-after Premiership title. Furthermore, with Pirates having all their eggs in one basket - to challenge for the league - after missing out of the Caf Champions League and three domestic cups, the MTN8, Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup, they do not boast a lot of opportunities to end the club’s four-barren run.
Add to the fact that the triumph of the league could be the difference between Sredojevic staying put at the helm or being shown the door and you get the kind of pressure Pirates are under.
“I have repeatedly said that we believe we can go all the way but people are going left, right and centre. When you are here (at a club such as Pirates) you must believe,” Sredojevic said. “All of us believe, but we don’t want to speak about it (winning the league), we want to focus on our next game on Wednesday. There are five big matches ahead of us.”
In the bigger scheme of things, the Buccaneers win over Wits proved they can do the job even without talismen Thembinkosi Lorch, Vincent Pule and Xola Mlambo. Lorch missed the match due to a suspension, while former Wits duo Pule and Mlambo were nursing injuries.
However, the good news for the “Serbian Wolf” is that the trio were all expected to report for training yesterday, joining the rest of their teammates as they continue the search for the elusive championship. Sredojevic has made it clear though that the technical team will absorb the pressure so that the players should play with freedom.
“If anything has to go by, we need the quality players back,” he said. “We are there to stand for the players, let all the pressure come to us. Let the players express themselves.
Football wise there’s still room for improvement and space to develop.”
☠️ A goalkeeper needs to be as good with his feet as he is with his hands, if not better. Elson Sithole showed good composure as he turned his man & kept possession before playing the Bucs out of trouble. #OnceAlways #Bakfunabonke pic.twitter.com/sAUJG1vZxg— Orlando Pirates FC (@orlandopirates) April 7, 2019