Claudio Ranieri was pleased with the performances of Leicester City’s fringe players in their Capital One Cup defeat to Hull City.
On a night of upsets in the cup, the high-flying Foxes were knocked out at the last-16 juncture after a tense match went the distance.
A goalless 90 minutes was followed in extra-time by Riyad Mahrez and Abel Hernandez scoring in quick succession, before the former – so impressive for Leicester this term – was denied from the spot in a penalty shoot-out that ended 5-4 to the hosts.
With Arsenal and Chelsea exiting on Tuesday, one could be forgiven for thinking Ranieri would regret making 10 changes for this match, starting Mahrez and Jamie Vardy from the bench.
Instead, though, the Leicester boss was pleased by his side’s display at the KC Stadium and this opportunity to test his squad players.
“I am disappointed, yes, but we tried to win,” Ranieri said.
“We scored a goal and it was bad to concede a goal just at the end of the match, but that is football.
“We scored four in the penalty shoot-out, we made a mistake just for one – but in my opinion it wasn’t a mistake from Riyad, it was a great save from the goalkeeper.
“I am so pleased with the players, my players who didn’t play every match on Saturdays. They deserved to play.
“It was a difficult match, a tough match and for us it was important to take the rhythm of the match.”
Asked if this was an opportunity wasted given Arsenal and Chelsea’s results, Ranieri retorted. “I don’t know if it is a big chance missed. I think they think it was a big chance to miss for them.
“No, for me it was important to look at my players and to know better my players because when you watch them in the training session it is one thing. This is no training session, it was a very tough match.
“We knew that and it is okay. It is okay. Hull City won the match, well done to Hull City.”
Judging on the overall display Hull deserved the victory, which saw them progress to the League Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
The result will also deflect attention away from referee Stuart Attwell and his officials, who irked the Tigers’ players, staff and fans with some controversial decisions.
“I thought we deserved it on the strength of the performance, which is the most important thing,” Hull boss Steve Bruce said of his side’s progress.
“Of course when it goes to penalties it is a lottery, but all credit to them.
“We made eight changes and beat a Premier League team, which was terrific.
“I thought some of our football in the first half in particular was excellent.
“I thought we caused them all sorts of problems and we just needed that bit of luck in front of goal.
“There were some decisions that I have to say were erratic. Maybe that’s best put like that and I’ll keep it at that.
“I would get into trouble (if I tell you my real thoughts) – you can write it.
“But some of the decisions we had go against us I just thought were awful, if I am being honest, but there you go.”