AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has praised Barcelona as the "strongest side in the world" after his side were knocked out of the Champions League with a 4-0 defeat to the Catalan giants.
Allegri opted for a defensive formation as the Rossoneri attempted to hold on to their 2-0 first leg lead, but they were undone by a Lionel Messi brace and goals to David Villa and Jordi Alba.
The Milan boss admitted his men required a slice of luck to overcome Barca but believes his side provided enough resistance to show positive signs.
"Luck was with us in the first leg with that deflection into Boateng's path, this time it went against us with Niang hitting the upright," he said. "It's only normal that this will now be painted as a disaster, but when you face a Barcelona side like this it's very difficult. They knew they had to score at least three, so poured pressure on from the start.
"After 30 minutes we played better and they got a little tired, as they couldn't keep that tempo up. Unfortunately, we came so close and did everything we could.
"Barcelona are the strongest side in the world. Messi and Iniesta kept dribbling with such cool heads in stoppages, Xavi was so sharp. I have to praise my lads for not giving up to the very end, as they could've let their heads drop."
Allegri believes the fight shown by Milan proves they have improved after a dismal start to the season.
"Tonight Barcelona were extraordinary, especially in the first 30 minutes," Allegri said. "Despite all that pressure, they had few real chances. In the first half we had a lot of problems emerging from our half, as they were pressing us and forcing errors.
"Of course qualification was always going to be a matter of centimentres. We hit the upright with Niang, then conceded with Messi.
"This defeat is disappointing for the club, the fans and the lads, as they gave their all and hoped to achieve something remarkable. Tonight it was tough against this Barcelona, yet we kept it open to the end and when 3-0 down had some chances that could've gone better.
"This team needs to grow and had five players who were in their first Champions league campaign. It will be useful experience. On Sunday we have Palermo and our objective right now is to get back into the tournament next season. This game must help everyone to grow, we knew there were difficulties and it's a shame."
Milan's tactics were questioned following the game, with 18-year-old Niang the focal point of scrutiny aimed at Allegri. But Milan were force to deal with a surprising change from Barca as Villa made a rare start and Allegri insists he made the right decisions in attack.
"David Villa's position caused us a lot of problems," he said. "The passing was also so quick that we had to defend a little deeper. Despite it all, we had a great chance to get the away goal and even the equaliser. Against great champions, it's always difficult to qualify, even after the first leg. It's a shame we tended to give Barcelona opportunities by failing to clear the ball properly.
"In order to play these games, you need legs and I made these choices. If Niang had scored, my choice would've been praised. We're upset, but don't have much time to even think about it, as on Sunday we face Palermo and our position in Serie A is the most important thing."
Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini conceded the Rossoneri were simply outplayed and must now turn their attention to securing a place in next year's competition.
"It's the end of a dream. We were not up to it tonight. We suffered from the start and it wasn't the performance we needed," he said.
"It is a learning experience, one we gladly would've avoided. I can only hope it can serve us well for the future. Now our objective is to get back into the competition."