A fairy-tale maiden campaign in the AFC Cup for Kuala Lumpur City failed to deliver a dream ending on Saturday night, as the Malaysia Super League outfit lost 3-0 to Oman's Al Seeb at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in the final.
Having done well throughout the campaign to make it all the way to the decider, KL City were looking to emulate compatriots Johor Darul Ta'zim in becoming only the second Malaysian team to win Asia's second-tier club competition.
But coming up against fellow tournament debutants Al Seeb, the City Boys' thrilling run was finally put to a opponents that were just bigger, stronger and boasting that extra bit of quality, as the Omanis continued West Asia's domination of the tournament.
Yet, with the advantage of the game being played on home soil, KL City showed promising signs early on with Zhafri Yahya and J. Partiban looking lively down the wing early on, while forwards Paulo Josue and Romel Morales threatened to find space in behind the opposition backline.
Al Seeb did however slowly but surely find their rhythm as the half wore on, so it is not as though they needed a helping hand -- which is exactly that the hosts handed them with the opener in the 22nd minute.
Surrounded intentionally by a sea of players as Ali Al-Busaidi whipped an inswinging set-piece into the box, KL City goalkeeper Kevin Ray Mendoza failed to cope with the increased attention and pressure and completely flapped with his attempted punch to allow the corner to end directly in the back of the net.
Eight minutes before the break, Al Seeb's stranglehold on the contest tightened as they scored a second goal - this time, one completely of their own handiwork as a lovely cross by Salaah Al-Yahyaei was headed home expertly by Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali.
By now, the City Boys were in need of plenty in the second half if they were to stand any chance of pulling off a remarkable fightback.
And that sound escalated into nothing short of a miracle when Al Seeb made it 3-0 in the 69th minute when Muhsen Al-Ghassani forced his way free inside the area before lashing a ferocious left-footed effort past a hapless Mendoza.
In the end, Al Seeb emerged deserving champions.
They deserve as much credit as KL City for getting this far -- and then more -- in their tournament debut, and they will now get a chance to qualify for next season's AFC Champions League and test themselves even further.
For KL City, there was hardly any shame in the comprehensive manner of their defeat in the final.
They were simply beaten by a better team.
And they can still look back on their continental exploits in 2022 with plenty of pride.