Sredojevic hails Pirates' character in Soweto Derby success

Orlando Pirates' Ben Motshwari goes past Kaizer Chiefs' Dumisani Zuma in the Soweto Derby at FNB Stadium. Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates are basking in the glory of yet more Soweto Derby success as Saturday's 2-1 win over arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs ensured their unbeaten run in the 'clasico' of South African football stretched to 10 games.

Pirates coach Micho Sredojevic, whose four derbies have delivered two wins and two draws, hailed the performance of his players as he spoke to reporters after the game.

"It was a match that brings the country to a standstill and carries with it so much pressure and stress," he said.

"It is a match that people were telling me 'could make or break you'.

"Having that in mind, our job was, throughout the week, to properly prepare so that whatever we did in our training sessions we would replicate on the pitch.

"The coaching team felt like lecturers teaching students who then faced an exam in front of 80 000 spectators. We went into every possible detail in the week to prepare them, anticipating every possible situation and also looking to make them mentally strong to answer any questions that they were posed."

Sredojevic was pleased with the character of his side when they were under the pump in the opening 15 minutes, including going behind to a sloppy goal.

The Pirates also missed a penalty through Justin Shonga in what was a horror start to the game for the side.

"We started the game on the back foot as Chiefs, and let's give them credit, dominated us for the first 15 to 20 minutes in a way that they scored the opening goal," the coach said.

"That served as a wake-up call. Then we had that penalty that [Itumeleng] Khune saved. That could have served as an injection of motivation, and it could have cracked us mentally.

"But credit to the players. We showed mental strength, we did not lose our heads. It was important in those moments to switch on.

"Then we scored from the corner kick and got a second goal. But at halftime we still had to solve the problem of the so-called 'golden zone' in front of our defence where [Dumisani] Zuma, [Bernard] Parker and [Khama] Billiat were popping up all the time. They were overloading that area with their presence, infiltrating all the time."

Sredojevic said the change of tactics at the break improved the Pirates' performance in midfield and cut off the Chiefs' supply line to their forwards.

"We sorted that out at halftime," he said of the decision to have the central midfield duo of Xola Mlambo and Ben Motshwari sit deeper very close to the back four.

"We answered with our performance, we cut their supply lines, we cut their flanks, and we stamped authority in the midfield. We believe that everything we planned went well.

"The game is now history but I do want to appreciate the character of the players who still believed we could win the game despite missing the penalty.".