AUGUSTO Palacios is calm ahead of Saturday’s Telkom Knockout semifinal storm, which sees Orlando Pirates being dragged back to Mbombela Stadium by SuperSport United.
They might not say it publicly but the truth of the matter is that Bucs must be holding a serious grudge against Stuart Baxter’s United, who embarrassed ex-coach Muhsin Ertugral with a 6-1 demolition.
Palacios guided Bucs to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chippa United in Port Elizabeth in their league match on Tuesday to bag his third successive win in all competitions since taking charge.
The former Peruvian World Cup star has managed a transformation at Bucs after taking over from Ertugral.
“It’s not about Palacios,” he quipped. “I am fortunate to have a top class technical team who helps me with input from the bench and I get tremendous support from the club management. It’s a team effort.”
The win has boosted their hopes of getting a place in the Telkom Knockout final and Palacios stated that they had forgotten about the 6-1 obliteration.
“It’s behind us,” he said.
“There is no talk of revenge. We will simply go out against SuperSport and play our normal game. The loss is far from the players’ minds. We’re not looking back, only forward.”
Palacios said he had three priorities when he took charge:
- Rebuild the spirit and morale.
- Make players believe in themselves.
- Don’t concede goals while winning points.
Said Palacios: “We’re getting the three priorities right so far, and it is important we get as many points as we can in the first round.”
He said his side had to battle for 90 minutes against the Chilli Boys: “We knew they would come at us and we sat back deep in the second half, hitting them on the counter.”
He added: “The win has boosted morale for the match against SuperSport. My only worry is that we’re not converting the chances we create. We should have scored three goals in the first half against Chippa but I’m happy we’re winning.”
He also praised left-back Patrick Phungwayo, who deputised for suspended Thabo Matlaba in that position: “Phungwayo has been out for nearly seven months and played superbly.”
Matlaba returns to boost the squad but Palacios has a number of players in the treatment room who are being assessed by the medical team.
They are Oupa Manyisa, Issa Sarr, leading striker Tendai Ndoro who netted his ninth league goal against Chippa, Mpho Makola and Themba Sikhakhane.