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.

Sport
Andy Murray reaches the final of the Australian Open after beating Tomas Berdych in another impressive display, but the match was marred by ill feeling
sport
News
peopleKim Sears wears 'Parental Advisory– Explicit Content' at final
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links