The action began immediately after kickoff, as Liverpool scored a goal that Stoke manager Tony Pulis would certainly admire if it had not come against his team. Centre-back Martin Skrtel sent a long ball up the pitch for Luis Suarez to run on to and the Uruguayan beat Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross, drawing a penalty within the first minute of play.
Steven Gerrard coolly converted the opportunity, but the Reds' lead did not last long. Stoke—determined not to let Liverpool beat them with their signature style—equalized when Kenwyne Jones challenged for a long ball, allowing Jonathan Walters to gain possession. Walters then beat Skrtel and pushed the ball past Pepe Reina in the fifth minute.
Jones then catapulted the Potters into the lead with an impressively accurate header into the corner of the net off a Glenn Whelan corner in the 12th minute.
Stoke started quickly once the second half began and Walters scored his second goal on a brilliant volley to give the Potters a commanding lead. The team's defense—which has allowed the fewest goals in the Premiership—then held strong and protected the 3-1 lead.
Kenwyne Jones, Stoke City: A
Jones is one of the most powerful strikers in the Premiership and he caused Liverpool's back line a severe amount of trouble in this match. He had a fantastic work rate and challenged for every ball in the air.
The Reds defenders were simply not up to the challenge of containing him today.
The ball dropped to Walters on the first goal because of his initial aerial challenge and his first-class header gave him his second goal in three matches. This was another impressive performance from the stocky striker.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool: B-
Suarez will likely draw criticism for going down so easily to draw a penalty kick. While the Uruguayan does have a deserved reputation for diving, this was an incident in which he did exactly what a striker should do.
Shawcross' arm was outstretched and he had a hold Suarez's jersey. By hitting the turf, Suarez left Howard Webb no choice but to award a penalty. While this was an admirable play, he failed to make much of an impact after the first minute of the match.
Ryan Shawcross, Stoke City: B
Shawcross lost out on the foot race to Suarez in the opening moments, then did his defensive duties by taking down the Uruguayan in a manner that did not result in his dismissal. While this early mistake did negatively impact his grade, he was able to settle in and have an impressive match after Liverpool took the lead.
Liverpool did have periods in the second half when it looked threatening, but Shawcross' stable play allowed Stoke's back line to hold on for three points.
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool: C+
While Gerrard has shown brief moments in which it appears that he will be able to settle into a holding midfielder role in Brendan Rodgers' system, this has ultimately been a disappointing campaign for the Liverpool skipper.
This match did nothing to improve his season.
He did deliver a classy finish on the penalty kick, but after that, he did not spend much time on the ball nor was he able to orchestrate dangerous pieces of play for the Reds.
Jonathan Walters, Stoke City: A+
Jones' energy and strength gave Stoke an advantage, but it was Walters' tenacity that allowed the Potters to earn a comfortable victory. His first goal was the result of fantastic effort and he simply overpowered Skrtel en route to an easy finish.
His next strike was pure class. Tony Pulis' side is not known for producing beautiful moments, but Walters' ability to collect the ball and place it in the top corner to extend his team's lead was a wonderful piece of skill and a major reason why he deserves top marks.
These club's entered this match tied with 25 points, but the Potters were able to improve to eighth place in the table while Liverpool dropped to 10th. Both teams will be back on the pitch this weekend.