LIVERPOOL // If a season ticket at Anfield was long a guarantee of happiness, now it is a shortcut to disappointment.
Try as they might, Liverpool just cannot claim three points at home.
Even in averting a fourth successive defeat on their hallowed turf, their frustrations mounted.
They have only won two home league games in 2012 and while they struck the woodwork on a hat-trick of occasions, Stoke City secured a second stalemate of the calendar year.
As bold as Brendan Rodgers's blueprint is and encouraging as the performances of some of his younger players are, he is encountering the same problems as Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool can struggle to break down well-organised opponents and few are better drilled than Stoke.
Tony Pulis's men came to negate and succeeded. Besides dogged defending, their regular fouls, breaking up the game, irritated the Liverpool public and players alike but served a purpose. They resulted in six cautions, meaning Stoke will incur a fine from the English Football Association, although their worst offence went unpunished. Robert Huth trod on Luis Suarez's chest in the fourth minute.
"I haven't seen it," said Rodgers. "It was a physical game but there are no complaints from us."
There was one from Pulis when Suarez, surrendering a right to take the moral high ground, collapsed in the penalty area.
"Retrospective decisions are made on a Monday and Luis Suarez should be punished. The one in the penalty box was an embarrassment and how he wasn't booked I don't know," said the Stoke manager.
With a moment of controversy and elements of quality, it was quintessential Suarez.
The Uruguayan carved out his own best chance, sprinting and slaloming from the halfway line into the penalty box before skewing his shot wide.
"That final touch didn't allow us to score," said Rodgers.
They were inches away on a hat-trick of occasions.
First Daniel Agger, who came close in the first half, picked out Raheem Sterling, whose low drive also clipped a post. Then Suarez powered a drive against the outside of an upright from a Joe Cole free kick. Martin Skrtel was also denied by the frame of the goal, his hooked effort staying out in the 90th minute.
Glen Johnson, when found by Steven Gerrard with a delightful diagonal ball, should have broken the deadlock but lifted his shot over the bar.
"We are disappointed not to score but there are a lot of positives," said Rodgers, citing a first clean sheet of the season.
That, however, was endangered by his own charges.
Defensive mishaps have been a theme of Liverpool's season. Two more almost came at a cost, Nuri Sahin directing a pass straight to Charlie Adam and sending the Scot through on goal.
Granted an immediate chance to punish the club that sold him, however, Adam's shot was tame and Pepe Reina saved.
The saviour on that occasion, Reina was the culprit for Stoke's next chance. He presented the ball straight to Steven Nzonzi, who picked out Michael Kightly with a first-time ball.
The winger went for the chip and Reina, redeeming himself, retreated to tip it over.
"In the first 20-25 minutes I thought we had the best chances and then they came into it," Pulis said. "In the second half we had to defend resolutely."
They did, too, as Liverpool revisited a familiar script of endeavour without an end product.
"The attitude and application of the players was terrific," Rodgers said. "There's a real bright future here."
But for all their promise, the present resembles the immediate past. Anfield remains far from the fortress they wish it was.