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
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all