LONDON • Pep Guardiola urged his players to take on board the manner of the setback they suffered at Stamford Bridge if they are to retain their Premier League title.
Calling their first league defeat of the term, 2-0 at Chelsea, a good lesson, the Manchester City boss was in an effusive mood regarding his side's display and, in particular, the manner in which they dominated the first half with aggression and panache.
He said: "The first eight, 10 minutes of the second half they were better than us, but, after that, and in the first half, we were fantastic. It's a joy for me as a manager to watch my players."
Goals from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz saw the visitors drop to second place after Liverpool's 4-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp's men now lead their rivals by a point with the sides to meet in what could be a pivotal encounter in the title race at the Etihad Stadium on Jan 3.
This was also City's first loss in 22 league games stretching back to April, prompting Guardiola to warn against complacency as the English top flight was equivalent to "the Champions League level".
"The opponents are so good, so clever. That is what's going to happen in the future in the bigger stages," he added.
Pep Guardiola's defeats by Chelsea as a manager - more often than by any other opponent.
Eden Hazard's assists, a Premier League high this season. It is double his tally in 34 appearances last season.
However, the Spaniard, who played Raheem Sterling up front with Sergio Aguero injured, rejected suggestions that Liverpool were now the league's front runners after City failed to repeat Arsenal's 2004 feat of going an entire season unbeaten.
"We were the favourites, in 24 hours, it's changed. Why?" he said. "We're not here to be invincibles. We're here to be champions."
Although his opposite number admitted Chelsea were somewhat fortunate, Maurizio Sarri was nevertheless proud of the character his players showed, having questioned their attitude following the 2-1 league loss at Wolves in midweek.
The Italian also challenged his players to not let their standards, as shown against City, slip, saying: "In this kind of (big) match, it's very easy to have motivation and determination. We need continuity, otherwise, we can win this kind of match and lose points in another."
Separately, Chelsea and London police have launched investigations after footage of a home fan allegedly aiming racist abuse at Sterling in the first half was circulated online.
The home team issued a statement, pledging to "investigate the matter and take the strongest possible action". The incident led to widespread condemnation on social media, with former Arsenal striker Ian Wright tweeting that "the bad old days (of racism) are back".
Sterling yesterday responded by posting a story from the Daily Mail on his Instagram page, saying he "had to laugh because I don't expect better". He also claimed the behaviour from fans towards black footballers stemmed from newspapers that "fuel racism and aggressive behaviour".