Liverpool put in a spirited performance for 80 minutes before succumbing to another last minute defensive switch-off to take a point at the Britannia stadium.
With 6 changes from mid-week, Gerrard, Torres and Benayoun all suffering injuries that will leave them on the sidelines for a while, Liverpool opted to use Aurelio and Degen on the wings, moving Kuyt inside to play behind N’gog.
The reds also welcomed back Mascherano who completed his 4 game suspension to face the same referee who had despatched him out of the Liverpool squad.
After an initial barrage of Rory Delap throw ins which the reds defended well, the reds began to get a grip on the game. Dictating the game but creating few chances. N’gog was isolated up front. Kyrgiakos was doing a fine job in the defence, his ability in the air a clear reminder to the kind of defensive qualities that have been so evidently lacking in recent months.
Further up the pitch and Lucas appeared to be the reds most creative player, and when a neat 1-2 was returned to him in the box he was brought down. No penalty was given and to rub salt in to the wounds he was yellow carded.
The second half still went pretty much the reds way. Chances were rare for either team but Liverpool looked comfortable with an impressive defensive display.
Eventually the reds broke the deadlock and it was fitting that Kyrgiakos got the final touch on the ball. Aurelio, arguably the best free kick taker at the club, put the ball exactly in to the right kind of danger zone and the swarm of red players enabled enough distraction to the keeper. Kyrgiakos poked the ball over the line.
Aquilani and Rodriguez (making his debut) were sent on for Ngog and Degen.
However, just as against Reading – in the last 10 minutes of the game the reds low confidence shone through as they began inviting pressure on themselves in a desperate attempt to defend the 1 goal lead. Reina urged them to press forward but it was to little avail.
The reds conceded needless throw ins and corners and eventually a corner failed to be dealt with and from close range Stoke put the ball in the reds net in the final minute of the match.
Before the game a point may have been taken, but the manner of the final goal hit hard.
With Man City and Spurs failing to capitalise the reds escaped further punishment.
Liverpool do not expect to welcome back any injured players as 4th placed Spurs travel to Anfield on Wednesday. Liverpool will be aiming to close the gap to one point.