Jason Roberts hails Pune FC's fighting spirit

Blackburn's star striker Jason Roberts hails I-League club's fighting spirit in 0-3 defeat

Blackburn Rovers striker Jason Roberts believed Pune FC should hold their heads high despite losing 0-3 to the English Premier League outfit in a friendly at Balewadi here yesterday. Roberts scored either side of half time. The goal poacher nicked both the goals from six yards out in the rain-affected game. Barcelona academy kid Ruben Rochena scored the third goal, a thunderous left foot strike from outside the box.

In a tussle: Blackburn Rovers' Jason Robert vies for the ball with
Caitano Costa of Pune FC during a friendly at Balewadi yesterday.
Pic/Suresh KK

Roberts was very pleased with the performance Pune put up. "Pune can hold their heads high. They played against an EPL team. They did not disgrace themselves. I was very impressed with a couple of the Pune FC guys, especially the goalkeeper and the No 4 (Chika Wali). The No 4 must have made at least 52 blocks. The ball hit him everywhere. He was outstanding. I think they can take a lot of credit from the way they played. The level was a lot better than I expected it to be. All in all, it was a good workout for us and we'll take it and build on it next week and get ready for the game against QPR," he said.

Pune played majority of the match with 10 men after Anas Edathodika was shown red after being booked twice in the first half. Rovers manager Steve Kean believes the sending off was justified. "They had a man sent off, it made things tough for them. But the referee (Pratap Singh) had to make that decision. But any game played is worth winning. We had 49 chances... 30 on target. We'll take that forward. It's been a great week for the guys to spend some time together. We'll go back with our heads held high."

Kean reserved special praise for Pune goalkeeper Shahnila Meloly, whose brilliant reflexes ensured Pune weren't humiliated. "The goalie had a very good game. It's the first time I'm seeing a 'keeper make so many saves. Not just the number of saves but different kind of saves. He even made a triple save at one point. The lad has a great future.

"Some of the Pune guys were fantastic. We will be keeping an eye on them," he added. Kean signed off thanking the Indian fans for their support, hoping such a game would happen again soon: "We enjoyed the Indian experience. Not just the football, but the warmth people treated us with. It was amazing. We will take all the positives from India. We were glad to see how excited people here are about football. I would love to come back. Hopefully this becomes an annual event."

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