IBRAHIM AFELLAY made his long-awaited first-team return at Anfield on Sunday but was helpless from preventing defeat against title-challengers Liverpool.
The Dutch international stepped off the bench for the final 20 minutes of the encounter as Mark Hughes gave the former Barcelona man valuable playing time after completing his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury.
His introduction was one of the highlights of the day from a Stoke perspective, with the visitors left frustrated having surrendered what was a thoroughly deserved 1-0 lead.
Jonathan Walters extended his impressive run of form against the Reds by heading home his sixth goal against the club to give City the dream start.
However, despite the best efforts of Joe Allen and Peter Crouch, both of whom went agonisingly close to doubling the advantage, Jurgen Klopp’s side came storming back to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 16 matches.
The first goal, and the most crucial, was a relative gift - with Glen Johnson doing well to sniff out the danger inside his own penalty area before inadvertently turning the ball to Adam Lallana who drove his effort past Lee Grant at the near post.
The equaliser had a huge effect on the home players and supporters, yet for all of their endeavour and tenacity, they struggled to forge any real sight of the Potters goal.
That was however until right on the stroke of half-time when Roberto Firminho was allowed too much time and space to open up his body and fire the ball into the back of the net via the inside of both posts.
It was a cruel and ultimately devastating blow for the visitors, who struggled to bounce back from that setback during the second period.
A Giannelli Imbula own goal, after he attempted to rectify a mistake which gifted possession to the home side, made the task almost insurmountable midway through the half.
Hughes responded by introducing Ramadan from the bench at the expense of Glenn Whelan, and whilst the change gave his side some momentum, an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration from Ryan Shawcross saw him pass the ball back towards goal, straight into the path of Daniel Sturridge, who obliged to his opponents mistake by tucking away a late fourth.