Orlando Pirates caretaker coach Rulani Mokwena admits that Milutin Sredojevic’s sudden departure on Friday has affected the Bucs and they are struggling to deal with the Serbian's exit.
Pirates crashed out of the MTN8 on Saturday night in their first match since Sredojevic’s resignation and Mokwena conceded the upheaval has had a negative psychological effect on the players after they delivered a strained performance at Orlando Stadium.
“It was a difficult match but I think it was a reflection of the state that we are currently in‚” Mokwena noted after his first game in charge of Bucs.
“You could see on the pitch‚ there’s a lot that has happened in the club in the last 48 hours. No excuses‚ but [it was] a bitter pill to swallow.”
Highlands midfielder Wayde Jooste scored the only goal of the match 10 minutes from time‚ giving the Lions of the North victory in their first match in the competition and their first win over Pirates since regaining their top-flight status in the 2016/17 season.
Pirates suffered their third defeat in a row after losses against SuperSport United (3-0) in the league at the Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday night and to Green Eagles of Zambia in the away first leg of the Caf Champions League’s preliminary round last Saturday.
Defeat in a competition they last won in the 2011-12 season means the struggle for silverware continues as Sredojevic left without winning a trophy in his second stint at the club that last won a trophy in 2014.
Reflecting on the players’ fighting spirit and attitude on the field‚ Mokwena said he could not fault their commitment.
“The defeat is one that we swallow and try to move on and improve from‚” he said.
Asked if he is ready to assume the head coaching position on a permanent basis‚ Mokwena said it was not the right time to think about that as the team was more important at the moment.
Mokwena and his assistant Fadlu Davids‚ himself a young coach with a promising career after doing good work as a head coach at Maritzburg United before joining Pirates last season‚ will have to quickly improve the situation in the next five days in which they play two matches.
Pirates visit AmaZulu in Durban on Tuesday to play their third Premiership tie before hosting Eagles in the return leg of the Champions League preliminary tie at Orlando Stadium on Friday night.