Steven Gerrard described his pride after Liverpool U19s suffered penalty shootout heartbreak in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals at the hands of Manchester City.
The two teams played out a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes, with Curtis Jones and Lukas Nmecha both netting in the first half of an evenly contested fixture.
But it was the hosts who subsequently proved deadliest from 12 yards at City Football Academy, earning a 3-2 victory on penalties despite Reds goalkeeper Kamil Grabara making an early save.
However, speaking to Liverpoolfc.com at full-time, Gerrard insisted he felt no disappointment given what he had witnessed from his players during normal time.
"I'm not disappointed because I'm very proud of the performance," the former midfielder said.
"I thought the lads were very, very good within the 90 and I thought they at least deserved a draw, which is what we got.
"We could have snatched it at the very end, we had a good chance through George [Johnston], so no disappointment.
"Of course, [it's] a cruel way to go out, but football is cruel, especially when you go further on into tournaments because you get to the stage where it's a penalty shootout situation.
"I'm gutted for the lads because it's been a fantastic journey and one that they'll benefit a lot from - I certainly will."
A fine penalty taker in his playing days, Gerrard revealed the advice he offered to his young charges ahead of their decisive shootout.
"We had a practice of them, of course we did, and these lads are always staying behind after training," he added.
"But you can't recreate that moment of pressure when you walk from the halfway line, I've been there myself on a couple of occasions; I've missed one, I've scored a few. It's tough.
"I said to them before the shootout, 'Make your decision, your decision's got to be yours, and just make sure you don't change your mind when you run up'.
"That's the only thing I've learnt over the years from taking penalties: you come unstuck when you change your mind.
"But their penalties were better than ours and their 'keeper has made saves, that's the way it is, but you're not going to criticise anyone for that."
Liverpool's young stars slumped to the turf after Herbie Kane struck the crossbar to confirm their exit from the competition and many appeared inconsolable as they subsequently left the pitch.
But Gerrard was buoyed by the emotional reaction of his players, and has urged them to utilise their pain in the fixtures to come.
He continued: "That sort of helps me, how I'm feeling now, it lifts me. I know we've got players who care about the club and care about the badge and they wanted this tournament, no doubt.
"If we'd got over the line and scraped through today I had every confidence we could go all the way to the final.
"Now, it's just best wishes to Man City, but nobody should walk out of this stadium with their head down.
"They should be really proud of their efforts because they've got to judge themselves on the whole journey, not just the penalty shootout.
"Football is about a journey of ups and downs; we've had so many ups in this competition that they've enjoyed and they've revelled in, and now's the time to feel a bit of pain.
"You've got to use that pain to your advantage. They're going to have many more highs and they'll have some lows as well along the way, that's just the way it is at the top.
"But I'm so proud of them and I know Neil Critchley is as well. We dust ourselves down and we've got big matches to look forward to, so we'll try and do our best."