Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has criticised Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling for diving to win a decisive penalty in the 5-3 defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
Ryan Shawcross' own goal and Luis Suarez's tap in had The Reds two up but Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam drew the host level before the break.
With the game on a knife-edge, referee Anthony Taylor first failed to spot Sterling's handball before awarding Liverpool a spot kick after the England international was brushed by Stoke defender Marc Wilson.
Steven Gerrard converted the penalty before further goals from Suarez and returning substitute Daniel Sturridge put Liverpool out of sight prior to Jonathan Walters' late consolation.
Despite the score line Hughes was adamant Sterling's action had cost his side and said that referee Taylor "bought" the youngster's second half dive.
"Raheem Sterling went down very easily in our opinion and the referee bought it," Hughes said. "The reaction of the player himself, immediately looking towards the referee, is always a giveaway from my point of view.
"The Liverpool fans also reacted to it and the referee has bought it. When players go down in the box referees are going to have difficult decisions but whether that penalty would have been given in the other box in front of our own fans, I'm not too sure.
"I think it's a poor decision and given that we'd come back from 2-0 down the momentum was with us and we were in the ascendancy but the game has been taken away from us again. I felt if we could get our noses in front, it could have been a different game. The penalty decision was key as it swung it back to them."
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers admitted himself that the penalty award was "soft" but denied that Sterling had a tendency to dive.
"I don't think he's in that bracket," Rodgers stated. "Goodness me, he is a young boy who gets kicked left, right and centre and we got good fortune. The defender doesn't make contact with the ball but does the man and Raheem is running at such speed. He is not that type.
"I thought it was soft. I'd call that a "Spanish penalty", one where the attacker goes into the defender – the defender doesn't get the ball – but the contact puts him over."