Watford boss Beppe Sannino says he is proud of his players' "daring and desire" despite the 4-2 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round.
The Hornets took a shock 2-0 lead into half-time thanks to goals from Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney and they held on to their advantage until the hour-mark.
However a Sergio Aguero hat-trick and Aleksander Kolarov's long-range effort saw City come back to prevent an upset and win 4-2.
"I am proud of my lads because today I saw my team play with a lot of passion," Sannino said after the game.
"At the start, the odds were completely against us. I told my players to enjoy the game today and to play with freedom on the pitch.
"And I have to pay compliments to my players for their daring, their desire and their organisation throughout the pitch. I am very happy about that."
The Italian admits at 2-0 he started to believe Watford could pull off a shock but he said he always expected City to improve in the second period and believes his players suffered from fatigue late on.
"At the end of the first half, I believed," Sannino said. "But I knew the game was not finished and we needed to get through 90 minutes and more.
"In the second half, Manchester City were unbelievable – they were fantastic and they showed us their full strength.
"In their last 20 minutes we were lacking a bit physically because we had been so brilliant up until that moment."
Sannino made three changes in the second half, bringing on Marco Cassetti, Almen Abdi and Diego Fabbrini as he looked to help his team hold on to their lead.
The Hornets head coach insists however that ultimately it was impossible to resist City's dominance.
"I was aware of the kind of second half that we needed to have," he said.
"I spoke with my boys and I tried to make some changes to get some more quality and substance into midfield.
"I tried to change the situation but you saw the result – the quality of Manchester city in my opinion overcomes any changes you can make tactically."
Sannino rested first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia for the match and instead picked young stopper Jonathan Bond.
Bond was at fault for the third goal, letting Kolarov's long-range shot slip through his fingers but Sannino stood up for his player.
"Jonathan Bond is fine," he added. "I think he has to remember this day not for the mistake but because he was very good on the pitch today - mistakes can happen."