Orlando Pirates head coach Milutin Sredojevic . Picture: BACKPAGEPIX
Orlando Pirates head coach Milutin Sredojevic . Picture: BACKPAGEPIX

Orlando Pirates survived some anxious moments to give their title hopes another boost with a narrow 2-1 home win over Free State Stars on Saturday night with coach Milutin Sredojevic admitting it had been a narrow escape.

Stars kept Pirates down to a single shot at goal in the first half‚ only to give away a clumsy penalty straight after the break and then allow their hosts to score a second goal soon thereafter.

But the relegation-haunted Stars competed gallantly to pull a goal back and then laid siege to the Pirates’ goal with only a superb diving save from Wayne Sandilands deep in stoppage time keeping intact the valuable three-point haul for the Buccaneers‚ now six clear at the top of the Premier Soccer League standings.

A third game in a week for Pirates‚ the heavy pitch at the Orlando Stadium and a little inexperience could all have contributed to seeing the game go the other way‚ so Sredojevic’s relief was plain.

“We knew it would be a key tactical game and the slippery and muddy state of the field did not help us either because we are a team that uses the ball.

“In the first half we looked to penetrate the opponent‚ show some patience to break through. However‚ it was not to be.

“We pushed our fullbacks higher in the second half and this paid us back immediately. We got exactly what we wanted with two quick goals.

“I believe we scored even a third goal. I don’t understand why it was disallowed‚” he said after Marshall Munetsi had his effort inexplicably ruled no goal following Musa Nyatama’s penalty and Justin Shonga’s header.

“But we had all the energy sucked out of our muscles by all our passing on this thick pitch and as a result I would say we then really felt the effects of a third match in seven days.

“I always say 2-0 is the most dangerous score in football and when we conceded to 2-1 we started to think about not losing. Subconsciously after we conceded the goal‚ we dropped back and this is something hard for any coach to control.

‘‘But our fighting spirit saw us fight through and credit must go to the players who stood firm until the end‚” added the Pirates boss.

“We did learn a few lessons from this game but this is how players get mileage in their legs‚ how they grow in confidence and it is how a team grows. We wanted to win the game at all costs and we’re very happy with the three points.”