Unhappy return for Houllier

LONDON - Liverpool ensured it was an unhappy return for former manager Gerard Houllier with a comfortable 3-0 Premier League win over Aston Villa at Anfield on Monday.

David Ngog and Ryan Babel's first-half strikes and a tidy Maxi Rodriguez goal sealed victory for Roy Hodgson's side and lifted them to eighth in the league table. Villa stayed 16th.

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The match was a first competitive return to Anfield for Frenchman Houllier who left Liverpool in 2004 after six years as manager having won five trophies in 2001. It was not to be a memorable one, though, as Liverpool raced into an early lead with two quickfire goals.

The first came from a corner on 14 minutes when Ngog dived on to a Martin Skrtel header to beat goalkeeper Brad Friedel from close range and the hosts were two up minutes later.

Babel, replacing the absent Fernando Torres whose wife had juat gone into labour, latched on to a Lucas throughball on the edge of the box before swivelling to finish sweetly from an angle.

Liverpool, also without injured defender Jamie Carragher and captain Steven Gerrard, added a third 10 minutes after the break when Rodriguez calmly swept home an incisive counter-attack.

The defeat prolonged a poor spell for Villa who have won just once in 10 league matches and hardly created a clear-cut goalscoring chance at Anfield.

Defenders Glen Johnson and Sotirios Kyrgiakos went close to stretching Liverpool's lead, the latter having a header cleared off the line.

Houllier, who has also managed France and Ligue 1 sides Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyon, was appointed Villa boss in September.