Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said that his team's Copa del Rey disappointment would push his team on to greater things, after they drew 1-1 in Tuesday's dramatic semi-final second leg at Barcelona, but were eliminated from the competition 3-2 on aggregate.
Atletico might have evened up the tie early at the Camp Nou, but they missed four clear chances, and their hopes seemed quashed when Luis Suarez shot Barca 3-1 ahead after Lionel Messi's low shot was saved by visiting goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya.
But an eventful second half saw Atletico defender Diego Godin injured, both Barca right-back Sergi Roberto and Atletico winger Yannick Carrasco sent off for second yellow cards, Antoine Griezmann have a fine goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, and visiting substitute Kevin Gameiro miss a penalty.
The incidents kept coming with Gameiro tapping home for 1-1 on the night, and Suarez also picking up a second booking, but Barca's nine men held on through five minutes of added time to make the final.
The Atletico coach told his postmatch news conference that he was leaving the Camp Nou with a similar feeling as he had after his team's controversial 2-1 La Liga defeat -- and hoped his team could again go on to finish their season by making the Champions League final.
"Last year when we lost with nine here, I left saying that we would go and do something big, and we made the Champions League final," Simeone said. "This year I feel the same. When you fall defeated in this way, it gives something important to the team. We have a battle to advance in La Liga, and in the Champions League.
"It is not easy to put ourselves back together, after the blows we have received, to always compete as we do. Today we were Atletico Madrid. I would like to have been in a final, but I am leaving full of pride. It was a fantastic game, we never felt we were out of it. We never gave up.
"If Barca made the final they deserve it. But I am leaving with the feeling we still have a very nice season to play. I hope this serves for us for the three months which remain."
Simeone pointed to an early chance for Carrasco, which came after Atletico had broken cleverly from a Barca corner, and suggested that everything would have been different had the Belgium winger scored.
"Carrasco's chance was decisive, the key moment in the game," Simeone said. "We had worked on that yesterday, and we were able to surprise them. The keeper made a very good save, of course."
The Argentine said he was proud of how his team had kept pushing and pushing even as their chance to progress appeared gone.
"Through the whole game I thought we had a chance," he said. "I am proud that after five years together we keep competing as we do. It is not easy, and with the circumstances and difficulties of the game. In the end there was the excitement that the Copa can bring out. They played with heart, as Atletico players have to, with their heads up, and I hope we can keep going with these type of performances from here.
"The big names in the squad put in a huge effort every day, and the kids follow their steps. The work tonight of Saul, Koke, Carrasco, Gameiro, Lucas [Hernandez], [Angel] Correa... they were all good. I would have preferred to be in the final, having played well. But as coach I must stick with what I have, and I am leaving very happy."
Simeone did not comment directly on the performance of referee Jesus Gil Manzano at his news conference, but told GOL TV in a separate interview that he felt officials should pay for mistake they make, and suggested his team suffered with worse decisions in Spain than in European competition.
"Referees can make mistakes," he said. "It is normal that when a player makes a mistake, they are stood down, but that does not happen with referees. But then everyone can make mistakes. It seems that Atletico have a better chance in the Champions League than Liga or Copa."