Orlando Pirates coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic is well aware the his team have been criticized for sleepwalking through the season and that lack of focus cost them dearly in the penultimate round of PSL action.
Pirates and Cape Town City drew 2-2 to set Mamelodi Sundowns up to possibly retake the PSL lead early next week.
Visiting the Cape Town to face a City team managed by former Orlando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy, the Buccaneers were caught cold. Zukile Kewuti made the most of some criminal defending to net in the first minute of the contest.
That goal stung the narcoleptic Pirates into life and they found an equalizer after just fifteen minutes through Thembinkosi Lorch, who broke free down the left side and sent Musa Nyatama’s pass beyond Peter Leeuwenburgh to level the scores. Pirates grew into the game and took the lead through Luvuyo Memela ten minutes before the hour. The Soweto giants couldn’t take a giant leap towards the title though as they committed another cardinal sin, conceding a late equalizer.
Quite how much damage has been done to their title hopes will only become clear on Tuesday when Mamelodi Sundowns play their penultimate match of the season against Golden Arrows.
Micho was frustrated with his team’s inability to close out the game and feels the team learned an expensive lesson.
“First of all, the delay of 15 minutes cost us,” Sredojevic told Supersport TV.
“We paid expensively for cooling down and started on really the wrong foot, conceding after 20 seconds. We answered immediately, equalising at the right time.
“At half-time we solved the things that were causing us problems. We were supposed to provide three on three in the midfield. We provided exactly that. We pressed a bit higher. We provided them to score that second goal.
“Later on, we still had a problem in the midfield. However, we didn’t respect that one ball they put in with the cross.
“They scored. We threw everything upfield with Qalinge and Mulenga.
“We risked everything, but unfortunately we didn’t get what we wanted. It is an expensive lesson we have learnt.
“The guys gave everything, but our best was not enough to win the match.”
Micho and his technical team identified the need to stop City getting bombing crosses into the Pirates box, but they were unable to prevent Craig Martin from getting on the end of one in the 84th minute.
The coach felt his team deserved to win on the balance of play but have yet again paid for switching off at the vital moment.
“It’s a team that you need to find the balance between attacking and defending,” said the Orlando Pirates boss.
“And when you are shocked with conceding immediately and you come back and you have the advantage, you need to close the game. We needed to block the crosses.
“This was the instruction we sent on to the field with a couple of few love letters on to the field. Unfortunately that one ball cost us expensively. But it’s football, you have to accept.
“It won’t affect them. All we have asked of our players is to give everything, respect the badge, respect the jersey, the supporters. Give your best and football will pay you back. Unfortunately today, it didn’t pay us back. We disrespected two balls in to the box and we have paid expensively. We need to continue next Saturday where we stopped today and think of nothing but that game.”
Orlando Pirates remain top of the league on 54 points one point ahead of Sundowns. The result ruled Cape Town City out of the PSL title race but kept alive the slim hopes of Bidvest Wits.