Proud Pep Guardiola sings Stones' praises in passionate defence of Man City players
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."