Ralph Hasenhüttl expressed his pride at a gutsy and heartfelt performance from his Southampton side on Tuesday evening, who went toe-to-toe with Premier League leaders Chelsea but ultimately lost out via a cruel penalty shootout defeat.
Saints made nine changes to their starting XI, but were more than a match for the reigning European champions, despite falling behind to a Kai Havertz goal in the first half.
Ché Adams clawed Saints level, kick-starting his goal campaign for the season, but there were a string of impressive performances coursing through the entire side, prompting the manager to commend a particularly spirited all-round display.
"We have done everything what we could today," he reflected. "It was a fantastic game to watch. For everybody inside the stadium it was a thriller.
"Typical cup fight. We wanted to give them a tough evening and we did, I think. It's a pity that in the end we couldn't take the win. But I'm very proud. This is what I can say today about my team. Everyone did a fantastic job.
ralph hasenhüttltoday i saw players giving everything for this club and this is how it should be.
southampton fc manager
"We wanted to have a game where we are active, where we show our supporters that we are brave. Very often you get the reward for it, today we didn't.
"Will [Smallbone] could have been the hero today, because he had a big chance, but for me the most important thing is that he's back and he's fit again. This is great for him. He should take these positives.
"You see how tactically these guys are developing. They immediately know that they can put it on the pitch, they go out completely convinced. Finally, do a good job against top teams.
"We were really fighting for our life, today I saw players giving everything for this club and this is how it should be. We have to go again like this."