Villa scored first through Christian Benteke in the fifth minute before Stoke powered home three goals before the break courtesy of strikes from Peter Odemwingie, Crouch and Steven N’Zonzi.
USA international Geoff Cameron added a late fourth as Mark Hughes’ men produced a fighting comeback which prompted Lambert to speak negatively about his players.
"We were definitely second best. That wasn't good enough,” he told Sky Sports.
"We got off to a really good start, within five minutes things were looking okay - we lost a couple of lads to injury, Andi (Weimann) and Karim (El Ahmadi) - but (beside that) we were still second best.
"We had a really good start and got a really good goal, but the goals we lost were really, really poor.
"We take nothing away from Stoke, they deserved to win the game.
"(The injuries) do disrupt you a little bit but I'm not going to use that as an excuse."
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