Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson accepted that his side had not performed well enough to avoid being knocked out of the FA Cup by Sheffield United.
The Citizens stumbled to a 2-1 fourth round defeat at Bramall Lane, with Eriksson taking the defeat on the chin, despite the Blades' first goal having been aided by a deflection off some balloons in the City area.
However, a dignified Eriksson said: "Before the scored we asked the fourth official to please tell the referee (Alan Wiley) to stop the match for one minute so we could clear the area.
"We received confirmation from the fourth official the referee got the message, but he didn't stop the game.
"At half-time I then heard the referee had asked Joe Hart to clear his area when the ball was up the other end of the field. But that's a little strange because Joe Hart has a lot of other things to do other than clear the pitch.
"I don't want to use it as an excuse, but it was a very strange goal. There were two balloons playing a one-two with Michael Ball.
"If you look at it the ball changed direction, but, as I say, it's not an excuse because even though they scored from a goal like that, we should have been better.
"We know we are a good football team, but sometimes it's not enough to just pass the ball to each other and play beautiful football.
"When you come to places like this you know the pitch is not perfect, but that's not an excuse either. I don't blame anything - not the balloons, not the pitch, I blame ourselves because we should have done better."