Pep Guardiola said Manchester City deserved to beat Middlesbrough after a 2-2 draw left his side facing three crucial home games in their quest for Champions League qualification.
City twice came from behind to earn a point at the Riverside Stadium, with Sergio Aguero scoring a controversial second-half penalty and Gabriel Jesus heading home his fourth goal for the club in the 85th minute
Guardiola explained that he started with a two-pronged strike force in order to free up playmaker Kevin De Bruyne in a more advanced role, and the City boss felt his side were good value for all three points.
"We put together Sergio and Gabriel up front," said Guardiola. "Normally we play with one striker but I didn't want to put Kevin De Bruyne in the role as a holding midfielder. I prefer to have him free to connect with our full-backs, and to have two strikers in the box.
"We deserved to win, definitely. In the second half we made absolutely everything. They crossed the [half-way] line twice.
"In the first 20 minutes of the first half they created chances, but in the second half we were much better."
Guardiola refused to be drawn on the controversial decision to award his side a penalty, when Leroy Sane appeared to go down easily under a light challenge by Marten De Roon.
"Maybe don't talk about that," he said. "If I didn't complain about the penalties that happened [against City] during the season – and I could make a long, long list – then I'm not talking about the referees today."
The result left City just one point ahead of rivals Manchester United in fourth and Guardiola said that his side's next three matches, at home to Crystal Place, Leicester City and West Brom, would determine their fate.
"A good result would have been a win," he told reporters. "But we turned the game two times, so I am satisfied about that. You come here and they are fighting to survive in the Premier League and when you face this sort of team it is the most difficult thing.
"We'll be trying until the last game in London against Watford. We have three games at home and they will decide whether we deserve to be in the Champions League or not next season."
Guardiola confirmed that Aguero, who was substituted late in the match, will face a fitness test ahead of the visit of Palace on Saturday, saying: "He is injured, in the leg I think. Exactly where in the leg I don't know."
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.