Michael Appleton reflected on his FA Cup heartache and declared: I’m proud of my players.
Pompey were knocked out of the competition following a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
It was harsh on Appleton’s men, who shipped three goals in the last seven minutes to give the hosts a hugely flattering scoreline.
For long periods the visitors matched their Premier League opposition.
Ultimately, though, Chelsea finished strongest to complete a victory described by Appleton as ‘cruel’.
But the Blues manager was delighted with his team’s gutsy display.
‘It was a cruel game,’ said Appleton.
‘It was certainly a bit harsh because we did ever so well for long periods.
‘But I was delighted with them, absolutely delighted with them. I was proud.
‘I think a few little things went against us.
‘Obviously the handball in the build-up to the first goal was difficult and we had to make a couple of enforced changes so that didn’t help at times.
‘I think the defining moment was probably the three chances in a space four or five seconds.
‘If we had got that goal back we would have put them on the back foot a little bit and hopefully might have got something out of the game.
‘A little bit of lack of concentration probably killed us a bit towards the end but that’s what happens.
‘If we had come in having lost 2-0 it would have felt like a victory.
‘I’m not being stupid – what I mean is that’s the way the game panned out.
‘We had a right good go at them, we were in it and stayed in it all the time.
‘We didn’t come to defend – although we did defend well at times.
‘But we had a go at them and it was positive.
‘I was delighted with every one of those players.’
The result could have been so different had Dave Kitson netted after 28 seconds.
Pompey’s striker had outmuscled England defender John Terry and David Luiz to find himself clean through with just Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech to beat.
However, he could only drag his left-foot shot wide of the far post.
And Appleton believes they were made to pay for that missed opportunity.
He added: ‘Dave’s first touch was fantastic.
‘His second touch seemed to hit him on his body before he could get it out of his feet and took the ball away from him slightly.
‘It was a good opportunity, though.
‘And for me it is never too early to score a goal, despite what some people may think.
‘If you get an opportunity you have got to take it otherwise you get punished.
‘You hear it and see it all the time.
‘If you don’t take your opportunities you are made to pay for it somewhere along the line.’