Pirates managed to collect just two points off the Lions of the North this season, after having to fight back twice to earn a 2-2 draw at the Makhulong Stadium over the weekend.
Pirates slipped to five points adrift of Absa Premiership leaders Bidvest Wits, but were rather fortunate to get anything out of the high-paced encounter in Tembisa on Saturday evening.
Justin Shonga also missed a glorious chance laid to him on a silver platter by Vincent Pule in the second half, with ‘Micho’ himself finding it hard to understand how the Zambian failed to hit the back of the net.
“We came into this match spiritually, mentally and physically recovered after qualifying to the CAF Champions League group stages, and we entered the game with the highest possible ambition,” said Sredojevic.
“In the first half we had done very well, except for a few balls that they had come with behind our defence. At half-time we sorted what we were supposed to and started playing much better in the second half.
“We created that clear-cut chance of Shonga, that is very hard to understand how he didn’t convert, and in football if you don’t use the chances the football gods are giving you, on the other side they gave to the opponents, who then took the lead.
“But, credit to the players for showing great character in a thrilling match where we were like boxers punching each other.”
In their first-round tie, Highlands were a far worse side as they struggled to threaten the Bucs’ goal throughout the match, but thanks to a horrendous error at the back that led to an own-goal they pulled off a 1-1 draw.
A much-improved performance this time had Pirates against the ropes on a number of occasions, but the hosts were unable to land the knockout punch.
The Serbian tactician thus defended that Owen da Gama’s side have proven their worth since earning promotion back to the topflight, as he conceded much to be critical of in their own performance.
“The first game was different, as you know they didn’t have shots on goal in 90-plus minutes and it was only because of the own-goal we scored,” Micho explained.
“We had a record 19 shots in that match, more than all our matches in the first half of the season until now, so when you play against such a team you need to respect them.
“As a human being, sportsman and a person that respects my colleague [Da Gama] and his technical team, and this team’s showing, no team in the rest of the league has beaten them convincingly – even when they lose, they do so honourably.
“They have an approach of ‘never-say-die’ and ‘never-give-up’ that is paying them back. Yes, they have scored three goals against us [this season]; yes, we need to be critical, but in the same moment we need to ensure that our defensive fragility improves because we believe that we have firepower to score.
“But you cannot score as many as you concede, if you are not closing the gates behind.”