Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic has hit out at Justin Shonga’s critics after the striker finally broke his goal drought against Polokwane City.

Shonga ended his 12-match dry run when he curled home a stunning free-kick in Pirates’ 2-1 Absa Premiership victory over Rise and Shine on Tuesday evening.

The 22-year-old now has two goals in 14 games this season, a statistic that has led Buccaneers supporters to voice their criticism of his performances of late.
However, ‘Micho’ stuck to his guns as he continued to afford the Zambian international game-time in the hopes that he would eventually convert his chances and gain confidence.

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The Serbian tactician was vindicated this week and sent a message to Shonga’s critics as he reassured his and the team’s faith in the player’s quality.

“Respect to all the people that think our players are machines, I want to tell you that they are human beings with feelings and emotions,” said Sredojevic.

Justin Shonga

“As such, it was not pleasing to look at Justin Shonga missing that penalty [in the Soweto Derby], missing other chances and immediately being branded in a way to kill his confidence.

“We as a technical team are watching and we have trust, confidence and belief in him; his teammates have trust, confidence and belief in him.”

Sredojevic further defended that Shonga’s assists have also been a positive contributing factor to his selection and hopes that the flood gates have now been opened.

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“I’ll just tell you that in the last three matches, he has a goal and three assists – one for the second goal of Thembinkosi Lorch and two assists in the Derby [Ed note: Thabo Qalinge assisted Lorch’s second goal against AmaZulu and Shonga assisted one goal in the Derby].

Sadate Ouro-Akoriko of AmaZulu FC gives chase to Justin Shonga of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership 2018/19 game between AmaZulu and Orlando Pirates at King Zwelithini Stadium, Durban on 6 October 2018 © Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

“These [assists] are something of more value because when you assist, two people are happy – you, because you assisted, plus the one that has scored. So, we are very satisfied,” insisted Micho.

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“You know, a player without confidence being attacked from right and left is like a balloon without air. So, I hope that his goal will inject confidence in himself, because he’s a very good player – he has shown with that goal and assists.

Micho Sredojevich, coach of Orlando Pirates during the 2018 MTN8 quarter finals match between Orlando Pirates and Supersport United at Orlando Stadium, Johannesburg on 11 August 2018 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

“We are now expecting in times ahead of us that his confidence will grow and that he will get better, and we shall support him all the way.”

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