Brighton & Hove Albion defender Lewis Dunk encouraged his team-mates to take pride from their display against Manchester City in Saturday’s narrow Emirates FA Cup semi-final defeat.
The 27-year-old led the Seagulls out at Wembley Stadium in a match that saw Chris Hughton’s side go toe-to-toe with the reigning Premier League champions after Gabriel Jesus’s fourth-minute goal.
After producing such an admirable performance against Pep Guardiola’s team, Dunk found it hard to hide his disappointment at Albion’s cup exit, but praised his team-mates for giving everything they had.
He said, “We’re gutted because we’ve missed out on an FA Cup final, which may only come around once in a lifetime, but hopefully not, hopefully we get another chance.
“I think we can hold our heads high after that performance. The gaffer’s proud of us and we’ve all got to be proud of each other in the dressing room.
“After the game, there was obviously a gutted mood, especially because of the way we performed, I thought we were excellent after going 1-0 down so early in the game.
“The character and grit we showed to stop them creating chances was excellent — we need to take that into the league games now.”
Albion restricted Guardiola’s side to just four shots on target and gave the Champions League quarter-finalists problems of their own, and Dunk continued to speak about the team’s eye-catching display.
“I don’t think we need picking up, we just need to thrive on how we performed out there. We were up against one of the two top teams in the Premier League at the moment.
“It was always going to be tough, everyone wrote us off when the draw came out, but we showed that weren't just going to roll over.
“Everyone in the stadium probably thought it was going to be 5-0 or 6-0 [after conceding so early], but we showed exactly what this club is about.
“We had to dig deep for the next ten minutes after the goal and make sure we settled back down into the game plan. The game plan worked — the only time we were out of position was when they scored.”
Dunk — Albion’s longest-serving player in the current squad — gave a special mention for the club’s supporters, before encouraging his team-mates to quickly switch their focus to Premier League survival.
“We had 35,000 fans and what an occasion for the club, for us to experience a day like that — we have to thank the fans for making so much noise and making the journey up.
“It was the wrong result but I still enjoyed the day. We’ve got to take our performance here into the Premier League and make sure we fight as hard as we fought out there to stay in this league.”