Thabo Matlaba is SA's Philip Lahm‚ says Orlando Pirates coach Sredojevic

13 September 2017 - 13:57 By Mark Gleeson
Ndiviwe Mdabuka of Ajax Cape Town nutmegs Thabo Matlaba of Orlando Pirates during the 2017/18 Absa Premiership football match between Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town at Orlando Stadium, Johannesburg on 12 September 2017.
Ndiviwe Mdabuka of Ajax Cape Town nutmegs Thabo Matlaba of Orlando Pirates during the 2017/18 Absa Premiership football match between Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town at Orlando Stadium, Johannesburg on 12 September 2017.
Image: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic called Thabo Matlaba the “Philipp Lahm of South African football” and suggested the free-running fullback was now destined to be a jack-of-all-trades for the club in the coming season.

Matlaba played in a central midfield role on Tuesday as Pirates beat Ajax Cape Town 1-0 at Orlando Stadium to record a second home win of the season and move to seven points out of a possible nine in the early stages of the new Premier Soccer League season.

“I need to tell you that I recognise him as a player who is the Philipp Lahm of South African football. He can play as a right or a left fullback; he can play in the middle. His work rate is high‚” said the new Bucs boss.

Sredojevic said he had used Matlaba to balance a middle where Musa Nyatama was used as a deep-lying playmaker and Mpho Makola pushed further forward.

“Against a passing team we need to put players who can also pass and play‚” the coach explained.

“Matlaba was the sandwich in the middle to support the attack and also protect the defence. I believe he did that but what will happen in the future we’ll see.”

That suggests Matlaba could be picked in a variety of positions for whatever job he his needed to do.

Previously at Pirates he has mainly played at left-back and occasionally helped out on the right with rare appearances in the middle.

“A good player can play anywhere and in the approach we have‚ I want to have players who are no ‘excuse-makers’.

"By that I mean players who don’t moan and say ‘the coach is playing me out of my position’‚” Sredojevic said.

“We want to put in place a culture where players accept where the coach wants him to play and to make that happen we rotate their positions in training.

“Since I last worked in South African football the attention to detail has vastly improved. You can’t hide‚ there are no more ambushes.

"Everyone sees every single detail‚ there are eyes everywhere‚” the coach added‚ suggesting mixing it up might be one way to catch future opponents off-guard.

- TimesLIVE

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