Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insisted his side’s draw with Liverpool in a pulsating Etihad Stadium clash ranked as one of the happiest moments of his managerial career.
During an attack-fuelled showdown in which both sides were guilty of missing gilt-edged chances, City claimed a point as Sergio Aguero cancelled out James Milner’s penalty for the Reds.
A point inched City closer to Chelsea, although they still trail by 12, while fourth-placed Liverpool moved four clear of Manchester United – who retain two games in hand – in fifth.
The match came a matter of days after City’s Champions League demise and the questioning of Guardiola’s tactics against conquerors Monaco, and the Spaniard refused to restrain himself when assessing his side’s output.
“It is one of the happiest days of my career as a manager,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich tactician. “I am so proud.
“After the Champions League, the last few days at training people were so, so sad. People don’t talk too much. We arrive here against Liverpool, who have no Europe all season and one week to prepare. The spirit, how we played, is one of my happiest days as a manager.
“We created more than them. Our problem is we don’t score when they are easy goals. At least we showed spirit that we didn’t show in the first half in Monaco.
“You have to consider the situation we played this game, how we played against them, a top team – they have exceptional players – means a lot to me. That is why I am so happy.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who revealed that Adam Lallana had apologised for a glaring second-half miss, was forced to wrestle with whether a share of the spoils was satisfying or deflating.
“To get a point at Manchester City for each team in the world is okay,” said Klopp. “There were a few situations where we couldn’t defend their quality. [But] we could have won this game, because we forced the goalkeeper into a few outstanding saves.
“Maybe it’s okay, but I’m not happy in this moment. Give me a few hours and then I’m happy.”
Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho both failed to convert a low cross from Kevin de Bruyne as half time approached, while moments later City stopper Willy Caballero saved from Roberto Firmino and then Lallana.
Liverpool opened the scoring five minutes after the restart as James Milner clinically converted his seventh penalty of the season against his former club following a clumsy foul by Gael Clichy on Firmino.
City levelled on 69 minutes as De Bruyne’s centre towards the near post was met by Aguero, who had evaded the attentions of centre-half Ragnar Klavan and fired beyond Caballero.
De Bruyne struck a post before an enterprising Liverpool move ended with Lallana inexplicably making a hash of a glorious chance with only Caballero to beat, while Aguero blazed over in stoppage time as City pressed for a winner.