FC St Gallen coach Jeff Saibene declared himself "proud" of his team, despite watching them concede a late goal in a "bitter" defeat by Valencia CF, who are through.
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A "proud" FC St Gallen coach Jeff Saibene could see past the disappointment after his charges conceded a late goal against Valencia CF, who booked their place in the knockout stage with a 3-2 victory.
The hosts had fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1, despite having Phillippe Montandon sent off, but Pablo Piatti completed his double to level matters before Sergio Canales broke Swiss hearts four minutes from time. The defeat was a painful one to accept, but the St Gallen coach found the positives in his team's spirited display.
"The defeat is bitter, but I am also proud of the performance of my team," he said. "We have put up a great fight and even had chances to score against a Spanish giant right until the final whistle."
St Gallen were dismantled 5-1 in Valencia when the sides met two weeks ago, and Saibene appreciated that the home match "was a very different game" - sentiments echoed by striker Goran Karanovic, who put ten-man St Gallen ahead. "The improvement over the last game was enormous," admitted Karanovic. "It's bitter to lose like this. We were so close, we were fighting fantastically well and put on a great show for our outstanding audience."
Added Saibene: "Unfortunately it was not quite enough, but because we played against a very strong team technically who keep the ball well, my disappointment is limited."
Rather than depression, coming agonisingly close to a famous result in Switzerland has merely served to further stoke the motivation of the players. As Karanovic promised: "There are still two games remaining and at home against Swansea we will try very hard to entertain our fans again."