JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic has challenged his players to show character by bouncing back in style after being thumped 3-0 by a struggling Ajax Cape Town in the PSL on Wednesday.
The loss to the Urban Warriors brought the Buccaneers crashing down to earth after a flying start to the new year that saw them collect 10 points out of 12, with commanding wins over Mamelodi Sundowns, Baroka FC and Platinum Stars.
The Buccaneers have to pick themselves up and take on Maritzburg United on Saturday night at Orlando Stadium (8.15pm kickoff).
“We are in a (rebuilding) process,” Sredojevic said.
“We are learning. We have learnt a lot of lessons (in our match against Ajax). One of those lessons is how to break down a reinforced defence. It’s a hard lesson in the game of football.
“It’s not pleasant to be on the losing side. We have to go back to the drawing board, as I like to say.
“When you are building, these things happen. I wish that this would wake up the pride in us, to make us fully aware that a game of football can go either way.
“We had to find a way to recover the team because the match against Maritzburg is our third in seven days.
“But this is a match where we need to show character, pull up the socks and sleeves to show the strong material that we are built from.”
The Serbian coach likes to say that football has no logic, you move one step forward and then take two steps back.
After four steps forward in the new year, the Buccaneers took three steps back by failing to breach the impregnable wall Ajax put in front of them and were rudely punished for that.
Maritzburg, with the joint-best defensive record in the country along with Kaizer Chiefs, will give Pirates strikers a tougher test tonight.
The Team of Choice don’t only have a good defence, they have a running team that packs a mean punch which should make this an entertaining spectacle against teams that can go toe-to-toe with the best in the country.
The Buccaneers will be looking to make up ground that they lost in the championship race.
Returning from the Mother City empty-handed didn’t only give their league ambitions a knock, but it also sees them 10 points behind their target of 40 points after 20 matches.
It will take a herculean effort, winning all their 10 matches, for the Soweto giants to finish the season with their target of 60 points – which could be enough to win the title, or at worst finish in the top three and return to continental football like Sredojevic wishes.
Qualifying for continental football is a more realistic target for the Buccaneers, who are making up for their disastrous campaign last season.
But Sredojevic hasn’t given up on the championship just yet.
“I need to tell you that, personally – as a born winner, as a person who never says die and doesn’t give up – we shall as a team, with the badge that we are carrying and the respect we have to our supporters fight until the last moment,” Sredojevic said.
“We will push on until the last moment, looking to be where we are supposed to be – close to the top and be at the top.”