Despite finding themselves on the wrong end of an 8-2 aggregate scoreline in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final, FC Twente forward Marc Janko insisted there was no disgrace in their elimination by Villarreal CF.
Janko, who had got Twente's goal in the 5-1 first-leg loss in Spain, was frustrated by the ensuing 3-1 home defeat by the Liga side, especially as the hosts scored first before second-half penalties from Giuseppe Rossi and Marco Ruben turned the tide. Even so, the Austrian international refused to be down about the end of an adventure that began with a spirited UEFA Champions League campaign and continued through three rounds of this competition, played out before a vociferous home crowd.
"It was really hard for us to turn around the tie after the game in Villarreal," Janko told UEFA.com. "It was almost impossible. We tried everything but as soon as we got those two penalties against us the game was over and our spirit was gone. The fans were amazing though, they always are. When you look at the other games here, the fans always supported us really well and it's a pleasure to play in front of such a great crowd."
The closest the 27-year-old came to adding to his first-leg strike was when he narrowly failed to turn in Emir Bajrami's cross-shot, shortly after the Sweden midfielder had given Twente the lead. "When Emir had his shot I missed the ball by only a few centimetres," Janko said. "If that had gone in then anything was possible, but that's football – you miss some chances and your opponents battle back. It was always going to be tough to score four against this great team."
So, after beating the likes of SV Werder Bremen, FC Rubin Kazan and FC Zenit St Petersburg, and holding FC Internazionale Milano and Tottenham Hotspur FC to draws in Enschede, the Dutch champions' European odyssey is over. "I think we can be pretty proud about the way we performed," former FC Salzburg man Janko said.
"We knew Villarreal are one of the best teams in Europe and that there was the risk of being knocked out, but we played well in both the Champions League and the Europa League and the journey had to end some time. Unfortunately the end came tonight.
Playing at this level is always a great adventure and a marvellous experience for everyone. Considering this was Twente's first season in the Champions League we did really well and can be proud of ourselves."
Defender Dwight Tiendalli also enjoyed his continental experience. Despite being sent off after conceding the penalty from which Rossi equalised, he focused on the bigger, more positive, picture – with Twente top of the Eredivisie with four games left. "We played well in Europe with a couple of beautiful games and I think we sent out a message to a few clubs," he said. "These are the games we want to play in.
This is the level we all want and playing like this has given us the confidence to go forward and improve next year."
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