Michael Laudrup issued an apology to Swansea City supporters and admitted he feared an adverse reaction in the Capital One Cup final after his team selection backfired with a 5-0 defeat at Liverpool.
The Swansea manager made seven changes from his team's previous Premier League outing in preparation for next Sunday's final against Bradford City at Wembley. The captain, Ashley Williams, and the leading goalscorer, Michu, were among those rested on the bench.
Laudrup insisted the team selection was not the only cause of Swansea's dreadful second-half display, with Liverpool scoring three times in 10 minutes after the interval, and admitted responsibility for the heavy defeat had to be shared between himself and the players. "It was a nightmare, we got slaughtered and it was awful," said the Swansea manager. "It could have been seven or eight-nil.
"We just have to say sorry to the fans who travelled. I am responsible as I pick the team. We made changes but that is no excuse. It is difficult to explain. Over the last two or three months we have made changes, I made seven against Fulham over Christmas, but we have always been competitive apart from a couple of bad games in September.
"I don't regret making the changes because we have always been competitive when I have switched the team. We have to learn, go on and think about the final. Maybe this was a single accident and the Wembley final was to blame. I hope so anyway."
Laudrup described the final as "the biggest game in Swansea's history" and admitted the defensive display could have an impact on the players' confidence. "When you win it gives you confidence and it is the opposite when you lose," he added. "The team I put on the pitch had performed at other times. Every player needs to look inside and wonder what they could have done better.
"I will not exclude that some players are thinking of next week which will be human because it is the biggest game in the history of the club."
Steven Gerrard, with a penalty, the full debutant Philippe Coutinho, José Enrique, Luis Suárez and a penalty from Daniel Sturridge secured Liverpool a first win in six matches in all competitions and encouragement for Thursday's Europa League second leg meeting with Zenit St Petersburg. Liverpool are likely to be without Fabio Borini for the rest of the season, however, after the substitute dislocated his shoulder late in the game.
The Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, said: "It was an important three points as we have had a bumpy road this week. The Premier League is important to us, and we had to focus today. I think we really showed our character and mental toughness today, after everything that has happened over the last week. I am very pleased because we spoke about that beforehand, and funnily enough, about keeping a clean sheet, which was very important to us. Once we got the second goal at the beginning of the second half it brought a lot more confidence and flow to our game."
Rodgers paid tribute to new £8.5m signing Coutinho, the 20-year-old Brazilian midfielder who made an impressive full debut at Anfield. "He's a really talented player," said the Liverpool manager. "He's only 20 but has had good experience of playing at a high level. He will take time to adapt to the speed of the game here but he's a wonderful technician, you can see that with his goal and the way he interlinked with other players."