Stoke manager Tony Pulis revealed his players were inconsolable after failing to emulate their formidable form of the past two months in losing 1-0 to Manchester City in the FA Cup final.
Sorensen: We have to be proud
Pulis said: "We've reached a level of performances over the last six or seven weeks, beaten Newcastle and Wolves and Arsenal and come to Wembley and beaten Bolton very convincingly. The greatest disappointment is that today we have not reached that level.
"They are disappointed with themselves for not reaching that level. Manchester City were the better team. They deserved to win the game. You need to bring your 'A' game to the table.
"We have had a great season. To be eighth in the Premier League, to have got to an FA Cup final, to stay in the Premier League for a fourth consecutive year and to be in Europe next season is a fantastic achievement.''
Pulis, who saw goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen make two flying saves from Carlos Tevez and Balotelli, put Stoke's disappointing showing down to having lost key players such as Ricardo Fuller and Danny Higginbotham.
He said: "Maybe we ran out of a few players. Ran out of a bit of depth that Manchester City have got. They're human beings, but they've been fantastic and they are desperately disappointed.''
The Stoke boss also saluted City`s supporters who stayed to watch the cup being presented and whose enthusiasm made the occasion as vibrant as Wembley has seen in years.
He said: "Our supporters were fantastic. To be there at the end of the game to watch another side pick up the trophy is pretty unique. The club has been a community club. It's the closest I've ever known a group of supporters to get with a football club. It's been pretty phenomenal.''
And on the prospect of competing in the Europa League next season Pulis added: "It's fantastic that we are in Europe for the first time for so many years. We'll look forward to it.''
Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen said Manchester City deserved their victory.
Matthew Etherington said the defeat felt worse than West Ham's heartbreaking loss against Liverpool five years earlier.
"That time I was devastated and just as devastated now, if not more,'' he said. "To lose it twice is obviously hard to take. To get there and for it not quite to happen is devastating.
"I hadn't done any training all week, literally hadn't kicked a ball. I had a grade two tear in my hamstring and I was just happy to be out there, to be honest with you. Usually, it's four to six weeks and the medical staff here did wonders with me.
"It was intense treatment with me all day, every day, and I felt good enough. I thought I'd ease myself into it and just up until I got took off, I felt as though I was getting in the game.
"It wasn't to be and obviously everyone's devastated.
"We were poor first half and Man City played well. Plenty of chances. Second half, we were better but it wasn't to be. They've popped up with a goal and hung on in the end.''
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen threatened to be Stoke's hero after denying City more than once before the break. He said: "I actually thought halfway through the second half that it was going to be our day. Kenwyne (Jones) had a good chance - it was a brilliant save from Joe Hart.
"And then when I, and I think the rest of the team, thought they were running out of ideas, they scored. And then, from then on, we didn't create any chances. We've definitely played better. We probably didn't hit the form that we've been showing in the last month or so. I think that's the disappointing thing.
"But this is our first chance of the big tournament, the big cup, and the players will learn a lot from this. The club has come so far in three years. It's disappointing today but, when the season finishes, we will all be proud of what we've achieved.''