JOHANNESBURG – Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic wore a veil of humility after masterminding an emphatic win in Orlando Pirates’ toughest test in this season’s Caf Champions League. That’s probably because a potential banana peel awaits the Buccaneers tonight.
Pirates host Telkom Knockout champions, Baroka FC, tonight at Orlando Stadium in the PSL - three days after thumping Horoya 3-0.
The Buccaneers, who sit at the summit of Group B in the Champions League, are three points behind log-leaders Wits who have played a game more. Pirates’ game in hand will be a tough assignment for the Serbian coach who will come up against an old friend, former Zambian coach Wedson Nyirenda.
Bakgaga might be inconsistent under Nyirenda in the league, but their giant-slaying exploits make them a threat for the title-chasing Sea Robbers.
“We live under the philosophy, when it’s good, do not fly and when it’s bad, do not give up,” Sredojevic said. “We are happy and are injected with confidence that we won this game (against Horoya) and kept a clean sheet.
But we are far from being overjoyed because there is still good space for us to improve and develop as a team and as individuals.”
Pirates’ defensive frailties in the league are a concern for the 49-year-old. His team has only kept four clean sheets in 17 matches. Their attack has managed to cover those shortcomings in defence. But in the Champions League it’s their defence that has been exemplary.
African Stars failed to beat them twice in the first round of qualifying, while Pirates also kept clean sheets against Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum and Horoya of Guinea.
“We have gone 360 minutes without conceding a goal (in the Champions League). But we aren’t getting carried away,” Sredojevic said. “We want to have a perfect balance between iron defending, creative build-up and sharp attack.
Our opponents didn’t create any chances because our players strictly abided to our orders that were made with the strictest possible detail. We knew every single detail of our opponents.”
Sredojevic has made huge strides with the Buccaneers since taking over in August 2017. He took the club from flirting with relegation to challenging for the league title last season, and playing in the group stages of the Champions League this campaign after a six-year absence.
Despite all of that, he and his technical team haven’t brought anything tangible to Pirates. Their opponents tonight, Bakgaga, denied them that opportunity by beating them in the final of the Telkom Knockout in December.
“My colleague (assistant coach) Rhulani Mokwena likes to say that an elephant carries a baby for 18 months while it’s pregnant. After 18 months it delivers something,” Sredojevic said.
“We are waiting for to deliver like that elephant. We are happy and very proud of the work we have done in the last 18 months. We are still very far from where we are supposed to be. But the most important impact is that when you leave a club, it must be in a better space and situation than the one you found it in when you came.
With a very relaxed approach, believing in the players and the work we have done, we are moving on into the competitive season and we are focusing on our match against Baroka.”