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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 23:04 GMT
O'Leary proud in defeat
Olof Mellberg walks off the pitch looking dejected after Aston Villa crash out of the Carling Cup
Aston Villa boss David O'Leary paid tribute to his players despite seeing them miss out on the Carling Cup final.

O'Leary admitted the 5-2 first leg defeat was just too much for his team to overturn on the night, even though they won 2-0.

"I am proud of them and the crowd," said O'Leary.

"We were disappointed with our defending in the first leg. They knew they had let themselves down and they wanted to make up for it."

He added: "We only have a small squad and they are wonderful lads, all honest.

"I am pleased with that and would have loved to have seen them get to a final.

"Good luck to Bolton - we will try again next season."

Earlier on Tuesday, Villa announced losses of 16.5m in the six months to November of last year - more than double their 8.1m losses for the same period in 2002.

And O'Leary conceded his brief when taking charge in the summer had been to reduce the size of the squad - but that the priority was always Premiership survival.

"This was a bonus for us," reflected O'Leary.

We have restored pride without a doubt
David O'Leary
Aston Villa boss

"The agenda coming in here at the start of the season, I was told to cut a lot of the staff down - we have let 10 go and six more players are out of contract at the end of the season - and make sure we remain in the Premier League.

"That is our battle now - we have more injuries tonight and that makes the job harder now - but we will get on with it, they are a great bunch."

O'Leary refused to be drawn on Gavin McCann's sending-off for a late challenge on Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.

But he said: "We you need to pull three goals back and are down to 10 men - also with Juan Pablo Angel out before the game as well - you are making life hard for ourselves. But we nearly did that in the end.

"It was a good start and even at the very end we had a couple of chances, or decisions, that may have gone for you.

"We have restored pride tonight, without a doubt. We played them off the pitch with 10 men, no disrespect to Bolton."

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