Pep Guardiola proud of his players as Manchester City did deep to earn draw against Liverpool
Manchester City's response to their Champions League exit gave Pep Guardiola one of the proudest moments of his managerial career.
Four days after City lost on away goals to Monaco, they fought back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw with Premier League top-four rivals Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
City old boy James Milner gave Liverpool the lead from the penalty spot six minutes after half-time but Sergio Aguero equalised and both sides had golden chances to win the game.
Guardiola said: "We lived a tough two days after being out of the Champions League, our mood and what happened in Monaco.
"In the first half we were what we are, and in the second half again and again and again how many chances we missed, it was tough, and playing against a team like Liverpool who were all week preparing for the game.
"How they fight until the last moment, how they put absolutely everything that they had on the pitch. Sometimes you play important games but you are just focused on that and your mood is okay.
"We were sad and that is why I am so, so happy, it's one of the days I am proud the most being coach and being coach of those guys.
"More than ever I want to help the club, if I am able and if they want to stay with me, to put in the next years to be there with the next step forward."
Guardiola accepted City were not clinical enough once again, with Aguero unusually profligate from a couple of great opportunities late on while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were also culpable.
"We had the clear chances but we cannot score goals again, and that's why you cannot compete with the top teams. To achieve the big targets you have to be clinical," said Guardiola.
In a passionate press conference, the Spaniard reserved his most effusive praise for much-criticised defender John Stones.
"John Stones has more balls than everyone here," said Guardiola. "I am delighted to have John with all the huge amount of mistakes he has, I love him. Because it's not easy to play central defender with this manager."
In an end-to-end game, there were several penalty shouts before and after Gael Clichy was penalised for bringing down Roberto Firmino.
City had the better of the play and chances after that but Liverpool could also have won, with Adam Lallana's miss from in front of goal almost inexplicable.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said of the midfielder: "He's one of the best if not the best player technically I ever worked with. If he can't (explain the miss) – I thought it was because he worked so hard before.
"After the game Adam said immediately to me 'sorry', and I thought, 'Why?' Now I know why he thought he had to say sorry but he doesn't have to because his performance was outstanding."
Lallana's miss among other factors left Klopp feeling his side could have come away with more than a point.
He said: "Everybody around me was so excited – not in the dressing room, they felt a little bit like I did – but the wonderful piece of football we did and then Adam couldn't finish.
"But of course I know Aguero could have scored once or twice, a lot of penalty situations in the game. I cannot change it. But the game is positive of course, it's how you have to play against good sides.
"It was intense, we defended well. The problem is I expect things like this from us and I cannot run around after a draw against Man City. But of course it's good if you get a point in a game like this."
The result left Liverpool a point behind City, who have played a game fewer, with the race for the top four places behind Chelsea looking set to go to the wire.
"There is one outstanding side this year and they will be champions probably, that's then well deserved, and all the rest fights with all they have for the Champions League," said Klopp.
"We are one of these sides and that's good. If we do it, that's a success, and if we don't we will be disappointed but we will not stop working or believing in this project."