After a start which had seen them go top of the table for the first time in two years, there had been growing talk of Liverpool developing into genuine title contenders this season. But at a ground which has consistently proved to be a graveyard of success for the club came the feeling that, even at this early stage, their championship hopes have died just a little. Liverpool's record of having never won a Premier League fixture at the Britannia Stadium has now stretched to four games, this being their second defeat in succession, and while their performance here was encouraging in spells, and in no way as poor as that which led to a 2-0 defeat here last season, the visitors hardly looked like a team yet capable of garnering the victories required to knock Manchester United off their perch. It will have particularly pained the travelling supporters that the goal which sealed their side's first defeat of the campaign arrived in somewhat predictable fashion, with a direct and aggressive approach from Stoke leading to Jamie Carragher bringing Jonathan Walters down inside the area. The striker took the resulting penalty himself to record his first league goal of the season. Liverpool, in fairness, did not sulk and went onto dominate possession, territory and goal chances here and will still be wondering how they did not equalise shortly after the hour mark when, having been put clear by José Enrique's through pass, Jordan Henderson saw three shots blocked by the Stoke defence and Charlie Adam, two. Asmir Begovic, the Stoke goalkeeper, was to thank for three of those interceptions. The refusal to concede was typical of Stoke's spirit throughout and, as such, they will feel they deserved to win. Peter Crouch was quiet on his debut for the club having joined from Tottenham for £10m on deadline day but he will feel pleased having seen his new team record an eighth game this season without defeat. Craig Bellamy featured for Liverpool having re-signed for the club at the end of last month but, barring a late header, made minimal impact. Indeed, it was Luis Suárez who yet again was the visitor's most potent threat and he will feel aggrieved at not having won a penalty when Matthew Upson appeared to handle his cross into the area later on into the contest. Deep into stoppage time the striker then missed an open goal after Begovic had failed to collect Charlie Adam's cross. It was one of those days for Liverpool in the Potteries, yet again.