Manchester City manager Mark Hughes beamed with pride on Thursday night even though his side's UEFA Cup adventure came to an end.
Hamburg advanced to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate following a pulsating second leg at Eastlands. City gave it their all to win 2-1 on the night and among those applauding warmly at the end was chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.
Hughes said: "It was a big night for everyone at the club for obvious reasons. We needed to make a statement and I think we did that with the level of our performance. It was important we came out and showed people there are things happening here and we have ability."
He added: "When in the future we are able to produce it on a regular basis we will be a very difficult side to overcome. It is the beginning of a long journey."
On his meeting with Al Mubarak before the second leg, Hughes said: "It was fine, I am still here."
Yet City got off to a terrible start with Paolo Guerrero opening the scoring after just 11 minutes to give Hamburg a 4-1 lead.
Hughes saw his side battle back and goals from Elano (penalty) and Felipe Caicedo in the 16th and 50th minutes gave them hope, but that was as good as it got and to complete City's misery skipper Richard Dunne was sent off in the 75th minute.
Hughes said: "It was a really poor start but we did not let that affect us. We picked ourselves up and got back on level terms very quickly. There was a real sense that we were trying to make something special happen and we almost achieved that goal. But unfortunately we did not get that break when we needed it.
"We took the game to Hamburg and it was a great effort by everyone. No-one gave us any chance of turning the tie around. We came very close. The sending off hampered us but we still kept asking questions of the opposition.
"They are a good side but struggled to stay in the game. That shows what we have been able to produce."
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