LONDON • Pep Guardiola saluted Manchester City's fighting spirit as Gabriel Jesus extended his remarkable record against Everton in a 2-1 Premier League win.
The Brazilian forward, handed a start with club record scorer Sergio Aguero rested, repaid the manager's faith with a double to make it seven goals in five appearances against the Toffees.
Guardiola said after Wednesday's home win: "We played great so I'm delighted for the guys. This period is so tough. We did really well. Three more points and closer to (second-placed) Leicester."
The champions remain third on 44 points, a point behind the Foxes and 11 behind Liverpool, before the runaway leaders' game against Sheffield United yesterday.
He added: "When you are far away from the first position, sometimes people give up, but we never give up. We have to keep going.
"We have FA Cup then the League Cup. Other teams dropped points for the top four so it was an important win."
Chelsea, in fourth, were held 1-1 at Brighton while Manchester United lost 2-0 at Arsenal.
City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, deputising for the suspended Ederson, mishit a clearance that led to Richarlison halving the deficit.
But Carlo Ancelotti could not avoid a first defeat as Everton boss after masterminding wins over Burnley and Newcastle since replacing the sacked Marco Silva.
Guardiola has set his sights on a more sustained challenge next term by admitting they need to "play better and pray".
But there was no need for divine intervention with Jesus in form.
The Argentinian Aguero, who has 244 goals in all competitions for City, has long stated his desire to return home to finish his career, and the 31-year-old may elect to say farewell to English football when his deal ends next year.
Replacing a fan favourite so pivotal to City's achievements is never going to be easy, but Jesus has been impressive so far.
Despite his game time being limited owing to Aguero's form, the 22-year-old has shown remarkable consistency, having a hand in 69 goals in his 75 starts in all competitions - 53 goals and 16 assists.
Against Everton, City struggled to create any real openings going into the break. But, right on cue, Jesus finished with aplomb a difficult chance early in the second half.
Seven minutes later, he found the net again.
His ability to find the target, despite being in and out of the team, is notable.
Among those with more than 10 league games this term, Jesus leads the way in shots on target per 90 minutes, ahead of Aguero.
Guardiola said of the 22-year-old: "He is young, we cannot forget, but the way he defends and fights is incredible.
"Of course he has to improve, he knows it. Every day though, he is better and better."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS