Orlando Pirates were given a rude reminder of their frailties, while their strengths rescued them in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday.
The Buccaneers went behind twice and both times clawed their way back thanks to their potent attack, after their weak defence was exposed.
Pirates coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has to find the right balance in the two departments if the Soweto giants are to survive the baptism of fire this month.
Pirates will take part in three competitions – the Premiership, Caf Champions League and Nedbank Cup. The Serbian needs one of those trophies to appease the Ghost after four trophyless seasons.
“We have started the year a bit rusty in comparison to how we finished 2018,” Sredojevic said.
“We believe that this will motivate us to work hard to reach where we’re supposed to be. We will approach all three competitions in a way that every match is a cup final.”
The Buccaneers host struggling Chippa United on Tuesday night at Orlando Stadium. They will then take a short trip to Zimbabwe to take on FC Platinum in Bulawayo in their first match of the group stage.
Pirates have to get maximum points against the Chilli Boys to move closer to Wits, whom they trail by five points after 16 matches.
But the Serbian coach isn’t worrying himself with the standings just yet.
“No, we don’t look at the log. We’re only looking at ourselves,” Sredojevic said. “We have 14 finals remaining because we played against Highlands Park as if it was a final, and every remaining match in the league, we will play like this.
“We will then see what football will pay us back. The lesson we learned against Highlands is that we need to close the gates behind and be effective upfront. This is what is our target in the remaining matches.
“We won’t change much, but to have more risk in our attack. If we’re killed because of that, then so be it, because we would have died through giving everything at our disposal.”
The Lions of the North showed great improvement from the team that stole a point in Orlando without a shot on target in the opening round of the Premiership season.
This time there was an element of disappointment from Highlands for only getting a point, while the Buccaneers breathed a huge sigh of relief at snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat.
“They have drastically improved from that game,” Sredojevic said. “They are a hard nut to crack. They are a team that pushes you to throw everything out of yourself and then ensure that your quality prevails.
“We tried our best, credit to the opponents for giving us a good game. It was a thrilling and end-to-end match.
“We will critically look at certain things, especially in our defence. We will also look at what we can do well in our next game against Chippa United.”
☠ @orlandopirates vs @ChippaUnitedFC— Orlando Pirates FC (@orlandopirates) January 7, 2019
📅 08 January 2019
🏟 Orlando Stadium
📺 SuperSport 4
🎫 @Shoprite_SA Checkers Nationwide
🎟🎟 @Computicket ➡️ https://t.co/NhuRtyQigG