Pune: His team may have lost the match but Pune FC custodian Shahnika Meloly won everyone's heart for his brave display in front of the goal, which won him praise from Blachburn Rovers manager Steve Kean and striker Jason Roberts. (Agencies)
"It is the first time I have seen Meloly. His reflexes were fantastic. He has a great future," Kean said after the exhibition match at Balewadi's Shiv Chatrapati stadium here, which his side won 3-0.
"I was very impressed by the goalkeeper and number 4 (defender Chika Wali). Shahnila Meloly must have saved at least 15 goals. They must take credit for their performance," said Roberts, who scored a brace in the game.
"I have been very impressed with the talent among the kids here. Hopefully they will get a chance in the English football," he added.
On his part, Meloly said he tried to give 100 per cent for the Pune side. "I'm very happy that the Blackburn manager praised me. I did well and I'm very happy. I wanted to give my 100 per cent," he said.
Kean hinted that such exhibition matches could be an annual affair.
"I enjoyed every part of the trip. It could be an annual event at the end of the season. We could also play an international match here," he said.
On what his take home from this brief tour, he said, "We will take all positives from the match. Not only from tonight, but from this week."
He also had a word of praise for his opponents.
"There were many chances which could not be converted. This shows that the opponent was good. The rain made it tough for them to keep possession. If their player (Anas Edathodika) was not sent out (due to double-booking) it would have been a close match."
Meanwhile, Pune FC coach Derrick Pereira said though the match was a learning experience, he was proud of his team for putting up a good fight.
"We learnt a lot of things, technically and physically. There was a huge difference between the two teams. But, hats off to our players. They played very well. I didn't realise that we were a player down. If we play like this we will do very well in the future."
Pereira, however, could resist taking a dig at the match official for sending off Edathodika, a decision he felt was unfair.
"It was a poor decision by the referee in both the cards. In EPL (English Premier League) he would not have given such a decision," he said.
Pune: His team may have lost the match but Pune FC custodian Shahnika Meloly won everyone's heart for his brave display in front of the goal, which won him praise from Blachburn Rovers manager Steve Kean and striker Jason Roberts.