Ngog, Babel and Maxi all on target for Hodgson's side
Goals from David Ngog, Ryan Babel and Maxi Rodriguez fired Liverpool past Aston Villa at Anfield, upon Gerard Houllier's first professional return to Anfield since leaving in 2004.
With Fernando Torres unavailble due to his wife going into labour, Babel and Ngog led the attack and produced two goals in two minutes to down Villa by half time.
Maxi Rodriguez grabbed a third for the Reds in the second half after a beautiful combination with Ngog on the right wing, firing past Friedel into the top right hand corner.
Houllier's XI displayed a lacklustre performance, whilst defensive errors pushed Villa to the brink and were pounced on by the Liverpool attack.
Aston Villa experienced an early scare as Lucas Leiva crossed in an awkward ball from the right, which was scrambled out by Ngog and fell to Dirk Kuyt who struck just past the post.
Marc Albrighton returned from appendicitis, and very nearly opened the scoring by latching on to a cross from Ciaran Clark, needing a vital interception from Martin Skrtel.
Doubts surrounded the Villa defence early on, with Liverpool constantly pressing forward as Babel threatened the Villa back four with his pace.
Liverpool scored two goals within two minutes, putting further disbelief in the visiting defence as Steven Warnock failed to cope with both attacking threats.
Liverpool had their lead as Kuyt drifted in a corner on the 15th minute and found Skrtel unmarked, who headed on towards Friedel at the front post for Ngog to meet it with his head and power it into the back of the net.
Two minutes later, holding midfielder Lucas collected a 40 yard cross and cleverly played it past Warnock for Babel to latch onto, and met an awkward bounce with his chest to fire across Friedel for his first Premier League goal of the season.
Villa’s defensive errors continued as Clark failed to cope with a lurking Kyrgiakos at the back post, who connected with an inviting cross from Kuyt but failed to get his header on target and test the Villa shot stopper.
Hodgson’s side looked to have cured their attacking woes with Lucas providing consistent balls forward for Ngog, who headed towards Kuyt, but after finding his way past three defenders, Clark made a vital challenge in the box and nudged it out for a corner.
Another lovely build-up from Liverpool saw more than 20 passes put together before finding Meireles on the right flank, who crossed into Babel and lusciously attempted to curl his volley into the right hand corner, only for it to drift closely past the post.
Babel’s work rate was better than all the others on the pitch during the first half, working his socks off to wrestle Villa off the ball and provide decent runways for Kuyt and Ngog to take off in.
Houllier was shown no mercy upon his return to Anfield, with his back four enduring a night to forget by half-time.
Villa changed to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation with Delfouneso and Agbonlahor leading the attack for the second half.
Houllier’s half time words must have heated Villa’s chills, as they looked more lively in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, pressing Liverpool and getting the ball forward.
Villa nearly pulled a goal back early the second half as Stephen Ireland played the ball to Stuart Downing on the left, and with Glen Johnson horribly mistiming his clearance, the winger got through and had numerous options once arriving into the penalty box.
Downing chose to find Agbonlahor arriving on the penalty spot, and played a left-footed pass into the path of the England striker, but just as he is about to poke it into the back of the net, Reina made himself big and produced an excellent save to deny the 24-year-old.
However Villa suffered yet another blow, and were caught sharply on the counter attack soon after Reina’s save, with Maxi playing in Ngog on the left wing.
The French striker continued his run into the penalty box before slotting back into the pathway of Maxi, who curled first time into the top right hand corner past Friedel.
Houllier made changes in the 65th minute when John Carew replaced Agbonlahor and veteran Robert Pires came on for England Under-21 youngster Albrighton.
Liverpool drove forward again in the final third, with Johnson pushing down the right wing and cutting into the Villa penalty area with two elegant touches past Dunne and Warnock, and unleashed a powerful shot requiring a sharp save from Friedel.
Hodgson’s side continued their brilliant first half display, with cheeky backheels from Maxi and a quick turn from Ngog pushing Liverpool down the right flank and won a corner.
Kuyt converted the set piece into Kyrgiakos, who rose high and powered a header onto the floor into the corner, only for Jonathan Hogg on the line to clear with his head.
Goalscorer Maxi was substituted for Fabio Aurielo with less than 15 minutes left to play, whilst Joe Cole returned to Premier League action after being sidelined for six weeks, and replaced Kuyt on the right flank.
Hodgson used all three substitutions with centre-back Kyrgiakos coming off for local lad Martin Kelly.
Ngog looked just as lively in the final minutes, partnering nicely with Johnson on the right, who played a one-two with the Frenchman, but pressure from Dunne pushed Ngog to drive to ball out of play.