Despite a brave City performance at Anfield on Wednesday night, goals from Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt and David N'gog were enough to inflict a first defeat of the 2009/10 campaign on the Potters.
Tony Pulis' side showed real character throughout the clash and at times were on top of their more illustrious opposition, however, brief lapses of concentration in the penalty area saw firstly Torres open his account for the season after just three minutes, before home debutant Johnson doubled the hosts advantage right on the stroke of half-time.
An individual piece of brilliance from Steven Gerrard led to a late third for Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt mid-way through the second half before French youngster N'Gog sealed their first win of the season with virtually the last kick of the game.
Ahead of the encounter City boss Tony Pulis made two changes to the side from the one which comfortably disposed of Burnley on Saturday. Republic of Ireland international Glenn Whelan was brought in at the expense of compatriot Liam Lawrence whilst Richard Cresswell was handed his first start of the new season with Ricardo Fuller dropping down to the bench, as the City boss opted for a 4-5-1 formation.
Cresswell and Whelan were part of a five man midfield along with Matthew Etherington, Rory Delap and summer signing Dean Whitehead. Former Evertonian James Beattie was named as the lone striker.
Liverpool were handed a pre-match blow with the news that Martin Skrtel remained sidelined after picking up a facial injury during their opening day defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. His place at the heart of defence went to young Spanish protégé Daniel Ayala, who lined up alongside England international Jamie Carragher.
There were also places in the starting eleven for skipper Gerrard and 'El Nino' Torres, as Rafael Benitez named an extremely attacking line up as he looked to get their campaign back on track on home soil.
They very nearly got off to the perfect start as Brazilian international Lucas tested Thomas Sorensen with a ferocious drive after only three minutes. Clearly desperate to put Sunday's defeat at Tottenham behind them the hosts did manage an early breakthrough barely 60 seconds later when Torres answered Bentiez's challenge to hit the goal trail with a well executed strike from 9-yards after Gerrard cleverly picked out the Euro 2008 winner.
- Torres hits an early opener for the hosts -
To their credit the Potters did push forward in search of an immediate equaliser, but despite the efforts of Delap and Whelan the Reds backline stood firm to retain their early one goal advantage. A rash Whitehead challenge on Javier Mascherano warranted the first yellow card of the evening in the tenth minute, before a dangerous Etherington free-kick shortly after forced Pepe Reina into clearing the ball away from the fast approaching Beattie.
A classic counter-attack brilliantly worked between Gerrard and Torres almost resulted in the hosts doubling their advantage in the 21st minute, however, with only Sorensen to beat Emiliano Insua dragged his effort into the side-netting from 6-yards, much to the delight of the travelling army of City supporters housed behind the goal.
An entertaining opening half hour continued as the Potters went close to levelling the scoreline through another trademark Delap long throw-in. Somewhat identical to the one scored against Burnley at the weekend, his launch into the penalty area was almost glanced into his own net by Carragher, fortunately for him though Reina was on hand to save his blushes and claw the ball from under the crossbar.
A speculative effort from Insua from the tightest of angles tested the hands of Sorensen, who had largely been a spectator for the majority of the opening exchanges as City continued to push forward in search of an avenue back into the contest. Carragher and debutant Ayala really had their metal tested as the half drew to a close as a series of balls into the penalty area from the lively Etherington surprisingly continued to pin the hosts back into their own half.
- Etherington continued to cause problems down the left flank -
A nasty clash of heads between Torres and Shawcross resulted in the Spaniard requiring medical attention of the pitch. Following a five minute absence he returned and a forced a corner after dancing his way through the City backline. From the resulting centre, City suffered a cruel blow as Johnson acrobatically found the back of the net after Beattie did well to block Kuyt's close range header.
Neither side made any changes during the half time interval with Pulis keeping faith with the same eleven which had performed so admirably during the opening period. His decision to do so almost paid dividends within two minutes of the restart as the Potters twice went close to halving the deficit.
Firstly, the industrious Delap fired a thunderous effort towards the bottom corner which Reina somehow palmed away, before Beattie whipped in a delightful ball straight into the path of Cresswell, who would have undoubtedly nodded home had Johnson not intervened with a last ditch clearance.
The hosts soon got into the swing of things though and could have fortuitously made it three in the 54th minute. Denmark number one Sorensen did well to parry Gerrard's rasping 30-yard drive, only to see the ball rebound back over him before he backtracked and gathered the ball comfortably.
A heavy spell of pressure from the hosts saw them go close on a number of other occasions with Johnson in particular causing the City backline a number of problems. A moment of magic from Beattie could have resulted in what surely would have been a contender for goal of the season, however, Reina was equal to the former England international's ambitious effort from inside his own half.
With just under half an hour remaining Pulis took one last throw of the dice to save something from the game as he introduced both Fuller and Lawrence at the expense of Beattie and Cresswell. Their introduction did breathe fresh life into the Potters, who started to tire after such an impressive showing, but it was in fact Benitez's side who went closest to adding to their tally.
- City's supporters continue to make themselves heard during the encounter, despite the scoreline -
Israeli international Yossi Benayoun fired across a dangerous ball which was glanced towards his own goal by Wilkinson, but Sorensen responded with an outstanding save to tip the ball onto the roof of the net. The travelling 3,000 or so Potters fans showed their appreciation to the players for their efforts with loud renditions of 'Delilah', and even when Kuyt made it three after Gerrard exquisitely teed him up late on, they continued to make themselves heard.
Late chances went begging for the likes of substitute Andrei Voronin and Benayoun, however, there was no mistake from N'Gog who headed home a late fourth. Despite the result the Potters will take heart from their performance and look to pick up all three points from Saturday's local derby against Birmingham City at St. Andrews.