Walker and Johnson give Capello some relief from his big headache

Strong defensive show at Anfield suggests England could have fresh faces at the back for Euro 2012

If Sunday's game reminded Fabio Capello of the crisis of his defensive options, last night's goalless draw between resilient Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur sides will have painted a better picture.

At Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon Capello watched as a defence built around Rio Ferdinand was shredded by Chelsea for an hour. He will have been appalled as Ferdinand, whose absence from the last World Cup was so costly for England, gifted David Luiz two yards of space for Chelsea's third goal. Capello would not have been much more impressed when a back four including Gary Cahill allowed United back into the game, with Ashley Cole suspended.

To say nothing of everything surrounding John Terry, or the frustrating injuries to United youngsters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both of whom played at right-back during the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

But last night was different. There were five excellent performances by English defenders: three right-backs and both of Spurs' centre-backs. After an evening of canny, cautious football, in which neither side looked like scoring the goal, Capello will have left with less of a sense of dread regarding his defensive options.

Foremost was the battle between his two favourite right-backs. Kyle Walker faced Glen Johnson, who had been switched to the left-wing, with Martin Kelly playing in Johnson's usual position. It was a thrilling duel, as they moved back and forth like fencers, one bursting forward to win a corner from the other, before conceding the same. Walker also had to cope with Craig Bellamy, keeping up with, and when necessary catching up with him, in a way that not many English defenders can manage. The one advantage Johnson has over Walker is experience: Walker has only two caps for England, and has never played in the Champions League. But last night he looked assured enough to face France in Donetsk in June.

Johnson must receive additional praise for matching Walker while playing on his unnatural side. Particularly so, given the lack of an understudy to Ashley Cole. Capello took Stephen Warnock to South Africa two years ago, although Warnock has yet to make it clear that he has the required class for international football. Leighton Baines, who does, suffered from doubts over his resilience. Johnson did once get past Walker and crossed sharply with his left foot, but it was repelled by Michael Dawson.

The sight of Dawson's imperious display may have been just as pleasing as that of Ledley King alongside him. Capello must have doubts about taking King after his injury in South Africa, but a run of games for Dawson could move him into contention.

In the opening minutes Dawson perfectly timed a slide-tackle on the on-rushing Andy Carroll, legally stealing the ball when an error of centimetres might have cost Spurs the game. Dawson matched Carroll in the air and on the ground for most of the evening, showing the proprietorial dominance of the near post and the penalty box that has made John Terry so indispensable to England. Late blocks from Charlie Adam and Luis Suarez also smacked of Terry, as did a clever and semi-legal push on Carroll in the box.

Ashley Cole aside, none of England's starting back four in the European Championship is obvious. Fabio Capello is accumulating problems, and has been for a while, but after such a set of very plausible auditions he will have left Anfield with a slightly more enjoyable headache last night.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments