JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic was brutally honest about his team’s shortcomings in defence, describing the number of clean sheets they have kept as “unsatisfactory” if the Buccaneers are to challenge for honours.
Pirates have four clean sheets in 17 matches in the PSL. It’s a poor return for a team that have ambitions of not only challenging for the league title, but also for the Caf Champions League.
“This is an area where we need to dramatically and drastically improve in order to progress as a team,” Sredojevic said after Pirates’ 4-2 win over Chippa United at Orlando Stadium on Tuesday.
Sredojevic and the Buccaneers’ technical team will work on the club’s defensive frailties ahead of their Champions League tie with FC Platinum in Zimbabwe on Saturday.
They might have been able to get away with their lapses in defence in the domestic league, but against the big boys on the continent, such mistakes will be punished.
Mamelodi Sundowns can attest to that.
Sundowns and Pirates have managed to get away with that because of their strong attack, and the fact that many teams in South Africa sit back and defend against them in the league.
There are no such luxuries on the continent, as most of the big guns come at their opponents with all their force.
“I believe that the result against Chippa wasn’t a true reflection of what happened on the field,” Sredojevic said.
“The result was much better than our performance, and we need to critically look at ourselves. In two matches we have scored six goals, which is a good standard, but in the same breath, we need to be fully aware that conceding four goals in two games is below any standard.
“This is a concern that we need to address. The intention of having clean sheets is our dream.
“We’re having problems. We are not running away from that, and we need to address it in due time and improve it as time goes.”
Pirates have limped to second place on the league standings in 2019 by stealing a point in Tembisa against Highlands Park, and then producing an unconvincing win over the Chilli Boys, who languish in the bottom half of the log.
In both these matches, a 2-2 draw with Highlands and 4-2 win over Chippa, Pirates were their own worst enemy.
They put themselves in awkward positions through their porous defence.
Sredojevic is confident that Pirates will improve in this regard with time. “It’s never easy after the festive season to restart the engine,” he said.
“I believe that our first two matches after the break have prepared us for the match in Bulawayo.
“The first match in the group stage is very important. You need to stamp your authority on what you would like to achieve in the group.
“We need to approach the six matches like we’re playing the Champions League final.”