Praise for the defence

Last updated : 20 January 2003 By Martyn Elliott

In the absence of Andy Griffin, Andy O’Brien and Titus Bramble, Nikos Dabizas made his first start since the 4-1 defeat by Inter, but gave an accomplished performance alongside Steve Caldwell.

And at left back Olivier Bernard gave one of his best performances, while Aaron Hughes was as dependable as ever on the right.

"You need skill to play in midfield and brains to play at full-back - and Bernard played with brains against City. He doesn't always do that," Sir Bobby told the Evening Chronicle.

"He knew when to play offside, when to step up, when to go on the cover and when to attack. It was intelligent - and Aaron Hughes did the same on the other side.

"We looked a good side because of it. That is what I want to see regularly.

"I was worried about Nicos Dabizas because he hadn't played for five or six weeks and was faced with Nicolas Anelka's pace.

"But he came through very well and we looked solid bearing in mind that he and Steve Caldwell were a new partnership."

If the defence can continue to play like this then perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson was right after all.