MANCHESTER City manager Manuel Pellegrini insisted his side are making progress despite being handed a masterclass in Champions League football by Barcelona on Wednesday for the second season in a row.
The City boss tried to remain upbeat after his expensively assembled squad fell to a 1-0 defeat on the night and 3-1 aggregate reverse that left them facing up to another European disappointment.
City's owners have spent more than £300 million (S$612 million) since the start of the 2011-12 season in an effort to compete with the continent's elite, but they were torn apart in the Nou Camp.
While they could have snatched a draw had Sergio Aguero scored a late penalty after Ivan Rakitic's first-half opener, it would have given a misleading impression of a game in which they were clearly second best.
City were saved from embarrassment only by Joe Hart's superb performance, the goalkeeper making 10 saves on the night.
His heroics were later hailed by Barca star Lionel Messi.
"Hart is a phenomenon," said the four-time World Player of the Year.
"He saved everything today. We did everything to deserve a lot more, we had a lot of clear chances but the keeper had a brilliant game.
"We can only congratulate him, but the important thing is we achieved our objective to get through."
Pellegrini refused to concede that City were out of their depth in Europe, insisting that tough draws over the past two seasons means their inability to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in the club's history cannot be considered a failure.
"I wouldn't say it was a failure but a disappointment," he told a news conference.
"We are improving. We have reached the last 16 for the last two years and we have been unfortunate to have faced Barcelona both times.
"If we had scored the penalty, then it would have given a different story to the game but Barca were a better team than us.
"We now have nine games to play in the Premier League and we will try to be champions."
The pressure is growing on Pellegrini with the team also stumbling in the Premier League, where they trail leaders Chelsea by six points, having lost two of their last three matches.
"About my position, it is not the time to talk about it and we will discuss the situation of the team at the end of the season," he added.
"The thing is that if we had played against another team then maybe we would have gone through."
He admitted that they were overrun in defence but said that City had had to attack to overturn the first-leg defeat.
"We had to score two goals in order to go through and so we had to take risks," he said.
"Still we looked to keep players back in defence because we knew about the threat that Barca also have in attack."
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