Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat revealed he had no idea how he would discuss the club's A-League grand final penalty shootout loss to Sydney FC with his players.
Victory opened the scoring before half-time through Besart Berisha on Sunday but were pegged back in the second period by Rhyan Grant's strike with 21 minutes remaining.
Extra time and penalties were required to decide the match at Allianz Stadium and after Victory captain Carl Valeri and winger Marco Rojas failed to convert, Milos Ninkovic proved the hero for Sydney as the Sky Blues prevailed 4-2 in the shootout.
Muscat had yet to properly chat with his players after the loss and agreed it would be tough after such a strong performance against the record-breaking premiers.
"Spot on. That's the gut-wrenching thing for me really," he told reporters afterwards.
"Looking the players in the eye there and somehow trying to explain how they lost tonight.
"It was an unbelievable effort… that's life and that's football... [but] they didn't deserve to lose."
Muscat added: "It's unfortunate because it could have been so different."
Victory had lost to Sydney in three regular season meetings by a single goal and again pushed the Sky Blues all the way in the championship-decider.
Their performance was built on a high-intensity, physical platform as the likes of Valeri and Leigh Broxham barely gave Sydney an inch of space in midfield.
Despite the grand final going the full distance, Muscat made only one substitution, bringing Jai Ingham on for Fahid Ben Khalfallah in extra time, and he was adamant that not making the full three changes was justified.
"We showed last week [in a semi-final win over Brisbane Roar] that we could work at an intensity that no-one else can in this league, and analyse the game, because saying that you're aggressive by dropping off the halfway line and waiting for the opposition team is not really [aggressive] compared to our fitness in where we want to press and how we press," Victory's boss said.
"It's a huge difference… and they [Victory] showed again in injury time creating those chances that the fitness levels [were good enough]. I was more than sure we'd hold on."