Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini praised victorious Leicester City after the visitors claimed a superb 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium to go six points clear of their title rivals at the top of the Premier League.
The hosts had the chance to replace Claudio Ranieri's men at the top of the table with victory but Pellegrini conceded they were second best in all departments, following a sluggish start that allowed Robert Huth to open the scoring after three minutes.
Riyad Mahrez netted a superb solo goal in the 48th minute and Huth headed his second after an hour, before Leicester threatened to pile on further embarrassment.
Sergio Aguero claimed a late consolation header, but there was no way back for Manchester City.
Asked about the reasons for the loss in his post-match interview, Pellegrini said: "A lot of things. We played first against a very good team. It's fair to give them merit because they are playing well in a very good moment.
"After that, we defended very badly - especially from set-pieces, where we conceded two goals. We were doing very well on that in the last game [a 1-0 win at Sunderland] but today we did it very badly.
"With a lot of possession we didn't create too many chances, except from in the last 20 to 25 minutes of the first half, where we had some chances to equalise.
"At the beginning of the second half, again two minutes and again another goal. We did it all worse than Leicester."
Replays suggested that the corner for Leicester's third goal might have been awarded as a goal-kick, while Huth appeared to foul Martin Demichelis as he converted.
But Pellegrini refused to point to such incidents as an excuse, given the overall inferiority he identified from his players.
"I repeat that we only that we did not defend well because we conceded two goals from set-pieces," he added.
"They also had other chances so I do not complain about one action of the game.
"I complain about the way we played today. I think that Leicester played better than our team."
Manchester City next host another title rival in Tottenham, who inflicted a similarly humbling 4-1 defeat on them earlier in the season, while Leicester travel to Arsenal.
Pellegrini, who steered his team to Premier League glory from behind in the 2013-14 season, maintains there are further twists to come in an intriguing battle for the top prize.
"It was our chance to recover the lead of the table here at home," he added. "We couldn't do it. We are six points behind Leicester and we have 39 points more to play for.
"As I have said all these weeks, it is very important to go game-by-game and try to beat Tottenham here because they are another team who are fighting for the title.
"We will see what will happen between Arsenal and Leicester - there are too many things that can happen when you have to play for 39 points more.
"But of course, this was a defeat that we didn't expect."