Diego Simeone and Jan Oblak were left to lament a slow start as Atletico Madrid fell to a frustrating 1-0 loss against Barcelona.
Ousmane Dembele's goal midway through the first half was enough to settle matters, with Atletico unable to salvage a draw despite applying late pressure at the Civitas Metropolitano, where Stefan Savic and Ferran Torres saw red for an off-the-ball clash in stoppage time.
The result leaves Simeone's men fifth in LaLiga and playing catch-up in the race for Champions League qualification, and the Atletico boss conceded that a hesitant opening to the game had cost his side dear.
"It [the slow start] was clearly seen that in the first 20 minutes, not because they created scoring situations, but we couldn't get out," he said.
"We couldn't get control from the recovery of the ball to start attacking. After the goal, we started to show more of what we want. After that, a good match was played, which excites me and makes things clear.
"The reality is that we lost. It is true that the team deserved to get another result ... but we were lacking in decisive areas. We did more good things than bad.
"If we follow the example of what came after those first 20 minutes, the team will compete as we want."
Goalkeeper Oblak, who made a smart stop to deny Pedri from making it 2-0 shortly after the opener, had a similar take on the game to his boss.
"We played a good game except for the first 25 minutes," he said. "We pressed very well, we had chances, but we lacked a bit of luck to score.
"I think that in general we played a good game and should have scored, but we just couldn't put it in.
"After Barcelona scored it became difficult, but we did everything we could."