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Free State Stars defeat was a turning point for free-scoring Orlando Pirates, says Milutin Sredojevic

5:55 PM SGT 8/3/18
Milutin Sredojevic, Orlando Pirates
The Soweto giants are now a free-scoring team having scored 11 goals in their last four competitive matches

Orlando Pirates head coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic believes that their narrow defeat to Free State Stars last December was the turning point for his side.

The Buccaneers dominated their Premier Soccer League (PSL) clash with Ea Lla Koto and they created many chances which they failed to convert on the day.

Sredojevic's men were left to rue their missed chances after Sinethemba Jantjie snatched a late goal which earned Stars a 2-1 victory over Pirates at the Goble Park Stadium.

Micho was left frustrated by his side's poor finishing with the Buccaneers having scored only 12 goals in 15 matches at the time.

“It was very, very hard. But we knew that we would turn things around and now that has happened, what is keeping us grounded is that we are involved in a process," Sredojevic said on IOL.

“I remember how painful it was when we lost to Free State Stars. We had given it our all. We had enough chances to win that game. The faces of our players showed that we are working with winners because they didn’t just take that loss. They were driven to ensure that it doesn’t happen again," the Serbian explained.

Bucs came back an improved side after the Christmas break and they managed revive their hopes of winning this season's PSL title. Pirates, who are placed second on the league standings, are one of the highest scoring teams in the competition having netted 29 goals in 23 games.

“They went to refresh themselves spiritually and physically during the Christmas break. We returned on December 27 with the intention of injecting the players with confidence so that they don’t think about missing when they are in good goal-scoring positions," the trainer continued.

“The aim was to allow them to create chances and take whatever conversion ratio came from that without it destabilising them to create more while pushing them to score more goals," he added.

Last weekend, the Buccaneers beat their Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs 3-1 with Luvuyo Memela grabbing a brace at the FNB Stadium. The Buccaneers are four points behind log leaders Mamelodi Sundonw with seven matches left.

“I have to give absolute credit to the players for reacting positively to the belief we injected in them because you can inject belief to someone, but if they don’t have self-belief and they aren’t pushing themselves at training, then they will not improve,” Sredojevic said.

“It’s like a war-zone here in small-sided games at training. They don’t like to miss or lose even at training. This is the spirit that has brought us here. In the first half of the season we had 20 points from 15 games. Now we are on 39 (19 points from eight games). We are happy with that," he concluded.

Pirates will face Cape Town City next Wednesday in the Nedbank Cup Last 16 match in the Mother City.