Match report: Liverpool 3-0 Villa
There was no dream Anfield return for Gerard Houllier as his former club roared to victory over his new team.
David Ngog and Ryan Babel filled the void left by World Cup winner Fernando Torres to stun Villa in a devastating opening 20 minutes.
The Spanish striker joined Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher on Liverpool's absent list, but the Reds' back-up strike force ensured a torrid night for the boys in claret and blue.
Villa were also depleted, with Barry Bannan [groin injury] and Ashley Young [suspension] adding to the already long list of casualties, although it mattered little on a night where nothing seemed to go right.
By the time they had recovered from the quick-fire first-half double, Argentinian winger Maxi Rodriguez despatched a well-executed third to seal the points for Roy Hodgson's Reds.
The stuffing had been knocked out of Villa when Martin Srktel's mighty leap to head a Meireless corner goalwards allowed Ngog to sneak in and head past Brad Friedel on 14 minutes.
The hosts were hungry and almost straight from the restart they regained possession, allowing Babel to fire home the second.
Lucas swiftly lobbed a pass forward to the edge of Villa's box, Babel collected over his right shoulder and fired across Friedel.
There was more than a hint of offside about the Dutchman's effort but that summed up the away team's night.
Houllier introduced Nathan Delfouneso at the break in an attempt to add much-need vigour into the Villa attack.
It would have made for an interesting climax to the game had Gabby Agbonlahor done better from Stewart Downing's low left-wing cross. However, Pepe Reina got down quickly to collect the striker's first-time shot on 53 minutes.
Liverpool were giving little away at the back but were quick when going forward.
They turned attack into defence quickly to claim a decisive third just before the hour mark.
Ngog collected a Lucas pass and sprinted into space down the left hand side. He supplied Rodriguez with a neat cutback and the former Atletico Madrid man cutely picked out the top corner from just inside the penalty area.
For Villa there was no way back from there. The Reds had chances to add to the scoring but fortunately Glen Johnson fired two angled shots over the bar, while Jonathan Hogg cleared a header from Sotirios Kyrgiakos off the line.
LIVERPOOL: Reina; Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Konchesky; Kuyt, Meireles, Lucas, Rodriguez; Babel, Ngog. Subs: Jones, Aurelio (for Rodriguez, 76), Cole (for Kuyt, 79), Jovanovic, Poulsen, Shelvey, Kelly (for Kyrgiakos, 83).
VILLA: Friedel; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Clark, Hogg, Downing; Ireland; Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Pires (for Albrighton, 65), Carew (for Agbonlahor, 65), Delfouneso (for Clark, HT), Cuellar, Lichaj, Herd.