Coach Palacios hails Pirates
Soweto - Orlando Pirates coach Augusto Palacios hailed the character of his side after they clinched the Absa Premiership title on Saturday, saying it was the perfect response to their critics.
The Buccaneers were crowned champions for a second successive season after a thrilling 4-2 comeback victory over Golden Arrows in Durban.
Pirates, who needed victory to secure the title due to fellow Soweto club Moroka Swallows also being in with a chance, needed two second-half goals from veteran striker Benni McCarthy to clinch the three points.
“People never believed in the squad we had,” interim boss Palacios said.
“People never believed in Benni, they never thought he can play two or three games in a row.
“But he fought hard and all the players did. Today we never panicked, even after we made some mistakes."
Pirates opened the scoring through a Lucky Lekgwathi header after 26 minutes, before the Moses Mabhida Stadium was stunned into silence after two goals in three minutes by Dillon Sheppard and Katlego Mashego that gave Arrows the lead.
But an excellent header by former Abafana Bes'thende defender Siyabonga Sangweni made it 2-2 at half time, before McCarthy put Pirates back in front with a 61st minute header and added a fine free-kick in stoppage time to clinch the win.
Palacios, who began his reign with a 3-0 loss to Santos after taking over from Julio Leal, said his players rallied behind him after their poor start under his guidance.
“We sat together thereafter to see what was the problem, we rectified it and today we saw the results in my final game," Palacios said.
“No matter what line-up I play, it did not matter. I believed in these players, their character and their confidence.”
The Peruvian coach revealed that he never set out to win the league, which was Pirates’ third trophy this season after the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout.
“When the chairman asked me to take over in a difficult situation, I said to him I will take it game-by-game,” he explained.
“That was my philosophy and today was just another one of those games.
“Personally, I never focused on becoming the league champion. My aim was to accumulate points and this is what we did and that’s the reason why we arrived here.”
Pirates were always in the mix for the title, although they were considered only third favourites behind Pretoria sides Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United at the start of the month after dropping six points in three successive draws.
“No (I was never in doubt that we could win), I think the key game was against SuperSport because they were fighting us for the title,” Palacios said.
"After that result, we knew what we had to do."