Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola did not hide his pain after the aura of invincibility surrounding him and his team was finally cracked when they were dumped out of the King's Cup by Sevilla last night.
The holders won the second leg of the last 16 tie 1-0 in the Andalusian capital but a 2-1 defeat in last week's home leg meant they were eliminated on the away goals rule, Guardiola's first taste of failure since he took over last season.
"We are out and it hurts to be eliminated from this competition," the 38-year-old said. Barca, who can no longer match last year's feat of winning an unprecedented six titles, were last eliminated from a competition in April 2008 when they lost to Manchester United in the Champions League semi-finals.
Guardiola had come under fire for using a weakened side in the first leg but he fielded all his stars for the return, including Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and Barca came close to going through. Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop was in stunning form and Messi was denied by a post midway through the second half.
Guardiola blamed himself for the defeat but said he had been pleased at the players' disappointment as it showed they were still hungry for success.
"I am sorry that I failed," he said. "It's a good sign that the dressing room is affected, that it affects them to lose. I am happy about that," he added.
"I saw reactions in the dressing room that pleased me. This shows we still have the hunger to win. We went down staying faithful to our style of play and now we need to get ourselves together again for the future."