Gerard Houllier suffered a miserable return to Anfield as struggling Aston Villa were comprehensively swept aside by Liverpool.
Houllier received a warm welcome from Liverpool's supporters on his managerial comeback to the club he left in 2004, but that was as good as it got for the man who won four major cup competitions in a six-year Anfield reign.
And on the grim evidence Aston Villa produced here, Houllier will have to undertake major reconstruction if he is to enjoy even a slice of that success at Villa Park.
Liverpool strolled to victory, even without the injured Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and striker Fernando Torres, who missed the game after his wife went into labour.
It meant Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson fielded an unfamiliar strike force of David Ngog and Ryan Babel, and they made the most of their opportunity with the early goals that set their side on the way to victory to leave Villa with just two wins in their last 12 games.
Hodgson hails 'important' win over Aston Villa
Ngog headed Liverpool into a 14th-minute lead as Villa failed miserably to deal with a corner, and Babel added a second two minutes later with a fine low finish.
Liverpool provided the scoreline with an even more convincing look after 55 minutes when Maxi Rodriguez warmed an Anfield crowd shivering in sub-zero temperatures with a delightful finish from Ngog's pass.
Villa's fans did themselves far more credit than their players - although the heavy sarcasm and gallows humour aimed at their team will have hurt Houllier as he tries to win over those still sceptical about his appointment.
Liverpool never needed to hit top gear to dispose of Villa, but Hodgson's side deserve full credit for the manner in which they made light of the absence of three such influential figures.
It was also a landmark night for Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, who kept his 100th clean sheet for the club in record time.
Houllier, however, looks to have inherited a Villa defence in terminal decline, and the cracks were apparent early on as Liverpool established a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Martin Skrtel was unmarked when he met Raul Meireles' corner, and Ngog was in even more splendid isolation as he headed past the badly exposed Villa keeper Brad Friedel.
Liverpool doubled their lead two minutes later when Villa were guilty of more shoddy defending as Babel took control of Lucas's pass on the turn ahead of Stephen Warnock to beat Friedel with a low drive into the bottom corner.
The rest of the half meandered to an uneventful conclusion, but any slim hopes Villa had of hauling Liverpool back evaporated with a superb third goal 10 minutes after the break.
Gabriel Agbonlahor had wasted Villa's best chance when he allowed keeper Reina to block from close range, and he paid the price for his generosity as Liverpool wrapped up the game in style.
Houllier targets improvement after Anfield defeat
Maxi found Ngog on the left, then continued his run to take the return pass and place a precise side-foot finish high into the top corner, a move and a finish that drew full appreciation from a frozen Anfield gallery.
Houllier made a double change, sending on John Carew and Robert Pires for Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton, but by this stage the game was well beyond Villa's reach.
And Liverpool almost added to Houllier's misery with a fourth after 67 minutes when Glen Johnson broke into the penalty area, only to be thwarted by Friedel's fine block.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos was even closer with a header that was goalbound until Jonathan Hogg smuggled it off the line by the post.
Liverpool closed out the win with the minimum of fuss, to leave Hodgson delighted with another home win and Houllier with a graphic demonstration of the scale of the work he has to do to revive floundering Villa.
90:00+2:23 The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
90:00+1:56 Stewart Downing produces a left-footed shot from a long way out which goes wide right of the goal.
89:20 Robert Pires fouled by Leiva Lucas, the ref awards a free kick. Stephen Warnock restarts play with the free kick.
87:00 The ball is swung over by Stephen Ireland, save by Jose Reina.
85:45 Richard Dunne challenges Ryan Babel unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed by Fabio Aurelio, John Carew makes
83:31 Raul Meireles takes a shot. Save made by Brad Friedel.
82:53 Substitution Martin Kelly on for Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
82:44 The ball is delivered by Joe Cole, clearance by Richard Dunne.
79:54 Glen Johnson takes a shot. Robert Pires gets a block in.
79:13 Short corner taken by Fabio Aurelio.
79:13 Substitution Dirk Kuyt leaves the field to be replaced by Joe Cole.
79:03 The ball is crossed by Ryan Babel, clearance by Stephen Warnock.
75:26 Substitution (Liverpool) makes a substitution, with Fabio Aurelio coming on for Rodriguez Maxi.
75:11 Martin Skrtel produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the goal.
74:47 Outswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles, Sotirios Kyrgiakos takes a shot. Luke Young makes a clearance.
73:52 David Ngog produces a cross, Stephen Warnock manages to make a clearance.
72:14 Nathan Delfouneso gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Sotirios Kyrgiakos. Jose Reina restarts play with the
71:28 Effort on goal by Glen Johnson from just inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
70:41 Nathan Delfouneso challenges Martin Skrtel unfairly and gives away a free kick. Jose Reina takes the direct free kick.
69:53 A cross is delivered by Luke Young, clearance by Dirk Kuyt.
68:58 Ryan Babel is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Brad Friedel takes the free kick.
68:32 Outswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles from the right by-line, James Collins makes a clearance.
68:00 Glen Johnson takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.
67:46 Free kick awarded for a foul by James Collins on David Ngog. Free kick taken by Raul Meireles.
66:16 The ball is swung over by Nathan Delfouneso.
65:37 Stewart Downing takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
64:44 Handball by Dirk Kuyt. Stephen Warnock delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing, Sotirios Kyrgiakos
manages to make a clearance.
64:44 Substitution John Carew is brought on as a substitute for Gabriel Agbonlahor.
64:44 Substitution Marc Albrighton goes off and Robert Pires comes on.
63:54 The ball is delivered by Stewart Downing, save by Jose Reina.
61:58 Jonathan Hogg crosses the ball, save by Jose Reina.
58:43 Stewart Downing has an effort at goal from outside the area which goes wide left of the target.
57:54 Foul by Leiva Lucas on Nathan Delfouneso, free kick awarded. Jonathan Hogg restarts play with the free kick.
57:00 Corner taken by Stewart Downing from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by David Ngog.
56:39 Stewart Downing sends in a cross, Martin Skrtel makes a clearance.
54:56 David Ngog provided the assist for the goal.
54:56 GOAL - Rodriguez Maxi:Liverpool 3 - 0 Aston Villa Rodriguez Maxi finds the net with a goal from the edge of the area to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 3-0 Aston
54:41 The ball is swung over by Stewart Downing, save by Jose Reina.
54:05 Ryan Babel is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Brad Friedel.
53:16 Rodriguez Maxi gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Marc Albrighton. The free kick is delivered left-footed by
Stewart Downing from right wing, save made by Jose Reina.
52:26 Gabriel Agbonlahor takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
51:31 Marc Albrighton sends in a cross, Jose Reina makes a save.
50:40 Ryan Babel is caught offside. Free kick taken by James Collins.
48:30 The ball is sent over by Gabriel Agbonlahor, Glen Johnson makes a clearance.
45:01 The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.
45:01 Substitution Nathan Delfouneso on for Ciaran Clark.
45:00+1:07 The first half comes to an end.
37:36 Free kick awarded for a foul by Ciaran Clark on Leiva Lucas. Free kick taken by Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
37:36 Booking Caution for Ciaran Clark.
36:21 Ryan Babel produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the net.
35:15 Rodriguez Maxi challenges Stewart Downing unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Stephen Ireland.
34:39 Leiva Lucas challenges Stephen Ireland unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stephen Ireland takes the free kick.
33:50 The ball is crossed by Ryan Babel, clearance made by James Collins.
28:26 Unfair challenge on Luke Young by Rodriguez Maxi results in a free kick. James Collins restarts play with the free kick.
26:50 Foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor on Martin Skrtel, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Jose Reina.
25:28 Marc Albrighton concedes a free kick for a foul on David Ngog. Raul Meireles delivers the ball, Header from close in by Sotirios
Kyrgiakos misses to the left of the target.
23:31 David Ngog gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Ireland. Brad Friedel takes the free kick.
21:38 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Stewart Downing, Header from deep inside the area by James Collins goes harmlessly
over the crossbar.
21:11 Marc Albrighton crosses the ball, blocked by Paul Konchesky.
20:05 Dirk Kuyt fouled by Stephen Warnock, the ref awards a free kick. Glen Johnson takes the free kick.
19:47 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Raul Meireles by Gabriel Agbonlahor. Rodriguez Maxi takes the free kick.
18:58 Stewart Downing takes a outswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Raul Meireles.
18:08 Stephen Ireland gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Leiva Lucas. Direct free kick taken by Glen Johnson.
17:00 The ball is swung over by Luke Young, save by Jose Reina.
16:48 Unfair challenge on Ciaran Clark by Dirk Kuyt results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Richard Dunne.
15:46 Leiva Lucas provided the assist for the goal.
15:46 GOAL - Ryan Babel:Liverpool 2 - 0 Aston Villa Ryan Babel gets on the score sheet with a goal from the edge of the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Liverpool
2-0 Aston Villa.
14:17 Stephen Ireland fouled by Raul Meireles, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Richard Dunne.
13:19 Corner from the right by-line taken by Raul Meireles, assist on the goal came from Martin Skrtel.
13:19 GOAL - David Ngog:Liverpool 1 - 0 Aston Villa David Ngog scores a goal from close range to the top left corner of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Aston Villa.
10:31 Luke Young sends in a cross, clearance made by Martin Skrtel.
10:01 Unfair challenge on Jonathan Hogg by Ryan Babel results in a free kick. James Collins restarts play with the free kick.
8:22 Stewart Downing sends in a cross, Martin Skrtel manages to make a clearance.
7:40 Paul Konchesky gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Ireland. Stewart Downing crosses the ball from the
free kick left-footed from right wing, David Ngog manages to make a clearance.
6:44 Stewart Downing crosses the ball, save by Jose Reina.
6:13 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marc Albrighton by Leiva Lucas. James Collins restarts play with the free kick.
6:00 A cross is delivered by David Ngog, Ciaran Clark makes a clearance.
3:18 Foul by Stephen Warnock on Ryan Babel, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed by Raul Meireles.
2:37 Effort from the edge of the area by Dirk Kuyt goes wide of the right-hand upright.
2:00 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on David Ngog by Richard Dunne. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Raul Meireles,
clearance by Stephen Warnock.
0:14 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Sotirios Kyrgiakos by Gabriel Agbonlahor. Jose Reina restarts play with the free
0:00 The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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