Pune FC coach Derrick Pereira admitted that there was a huge gulf in class between his team and English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers during last night's 3-0 loss at Balewadi stadium. "We learnt a lot from this game. We need to improve technically, tactically and physically. There was a huge gap between us and Blackburn. But hats off to the boys. They played a spirited game. It didn't feel like we were playing with ten men. The result was fair, we fought well and defended well."
The match saw Pune newcomer Anas Edathodika get his marching orders early in the second half after receiving two yellow cards and Pereira felt the referee Pratap Singh was harsh. "The referee made a poor decision. Those yellow cards would not have been shown had it been an EPL game."
Pereira believes his team missed the physical presence of Guinea striker Mandjou Keita, who missed the game due to injury. "Mandjou's physical ability would have helped us. He has played in Europe and the US, his experience would have helped us. But Jeje (Lalpekhlua) had a very good game today. We got to keep playing at this level. It will give us a lot of confidence going into the new I-League season. Such games will benefit Indian football a lot.
On learning that Blackburn boss Steve Kean mentioned that he would be keeping an eye on some of Pune FC's players, Pereira said: "I would be very happy for my players if they get a chance to go and play in EPL."
Pune FC goalkeeper Shanila Meloly earned a lot of praise from all quarters, but most significantly from Rovers boss Kean. Meloly put in a very brave performance, saving more than a dozen goals. "The experience was very good. I wanted to perform well and am very happy with the praise (referring to Kean's compliments). In the one of a kind friendlies, Blackburn, owned by Pune's Venkateshwar Hatcheries, became the first EPL side to play in India.