Stoke City won the match, but lost the war.
The Potters reversed the 1-0 first leg loss at the Britannia Stadium over 90 minutes against Liverpool, and then held on through 30 minutes of extra time only to fall in penalty kicks when Simon Mignolet made a pair of big saves.
The sting is deep.
“What can I say to them? It is incredibly difficult, but both of those players were absolutely superb on the night.
“I was a striker, and paid to score goals and yet I never stuck my hand up to take a penalty in a shootout. It takes a lot of bottle to stand up and take one – especially in a game of such magnitude at a venue like this.
“I am full of admiration for them. It is just a shame their performances weren’t rewarded with the outcome that they, and the rest of my players, deserved.”
Penalties are a cruel, cruel business, and Hughes clearly knows what his troops need to hear in the wake of such disappointment.