Lee Johnson said a gulf in quality meant his Bristol City side were 'shown up' at times by Leeds United in the Whites' 3-1 win.
A Pablo Hernandez wondergoal, Patrick Bamford's second half header and Jack Harrison's volley took the game away from the Robins completely at Ashton Gate, before a commendable late rally and a consolation goal.
Johnson lamented the loss of key players, including Adam Webster who was sold yesterday to Brighton.
But he was keen to highlight Leeds' superiority.
"When you lose big players from the team you've got to rebuild again, rebuild your defensive organisation, the way you structure your attacks," he said.
"Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say they were better than us, in their brain, the way they moved.
"I thought we were honest, the group of lads kept working right to the end.
"A gulf in quality on the day. That's just me being honest."
Johnson said the defeat was evidence of the work Bristol City need to do in the transfer market if they want to compete with the likes of Marcelo Bielsa's promotion hopefuls.
"It shows we need at least five, if you want to be serious about taking it to another level," said the Robins boss.
"If you're asking me what we need to get near to that level of quality, obviously Leeds might not have the depth they had last year but they have some good players and they showed us up at times.
"Tough game today but I would have hoped we would have showed a little more than we did during the game.
"You see we were much better physically today than we were against Crystal Palace [in a recent friendly], we just weren't technically as good as the opposition.
"Today two or three of the goals, definitely the first one we've got to do more. "We've got to get up to the ball, it was too easy for Hernandez to turn and fire it off. Then a giveaway, which is fine, but it's the balance behind the ball when we give it away.
"We've got to make sure we've got the cover."
There was some tension in the technical areas late in the first half, when Johnson appeared to have a coming together with the Leeds medical staff.
Bielsa then attempted to speak to Johnson, who seemed to shrug off the Argentine's approach.
But the two did speak at half-time to clear up the situation regarding injured players, after Mateusz Klich went to ground and the game progressed with
"It's just that we sent an email out to the clubs to say look, this happens often, someone goes down, sometimes it's tactical, sometimes people try to gain an advantage, sometimes it's genuine," he said.
"We decided as a club that for the 46 games we'll let the referee manage the game, whether it's our player or their player. If the referee sees a head injury he'll stop the game, if it's not he'll play on. If there's a consistency, that was what I was trying to explain. Obviously it's not easy with the language barrier."
Johnson did hint, however, that he wasn't entirely happy with what was going on a few yards from him on the touchline.
"If you had a tactician watching the way they conduct their technical area, you'd see why," he said.
"They like to work that.
"Fair play to them, most clubs do the same."