Northern Ireland lost to Germany at Windsor Park yesterday but the players put in a shift to be proud of. The Germans struggled to break the Northern Irish defence down, only managing two goals.
The first was a stunning finish and the second was a late goal to seal the win with Northern Ireland committing men forward. But Northern Ireland had some chances to score and, on another day, there might have been a shock.
Two players, in particular, produced standout performances and both were at Leeds last season. Bailey Peacock-Farrell was a wall between the sticks while Stuart Dallas ran the show from right-back. Dallas’ latest performance is further evidence that Marcelo Bielsa had a masterstroke by changing his position.
Bielsa’s decision initially questioned
Last season, Dallas was a winger. And he was quite far down the pecking order with the likes of Jack Clarke, Tyler Roberts, Jack Harrison and Gjanni Alioski all performing well. But Bielsa had a plan for Dallas.
When Barry Douglas suffered an injury, he converted Dallas into a versatile full-back. And now it seems that Dallas’ preferred position is at right-back or left-back. This decision was initially met with confusion as Leeds fans thought Bielsa should sign another full-back instead. But Bielsa knew exactly what he was doing.
Dallas stars for club and country
This season, Dallas has taken his game to the next level. His performance for Northern Ireland on Monday night was a reflection of his form for Leeds. The Whites do not just have a converted winger at full-back; he has made this position his own.
Given his form for club and country, it is hard to see Luke Ayling wrestling his right-back spot from Dallas’ grasp. Gaetano Berardi sits on the bench while Dallas continues to shine in this role.
New contract on the horizon?
Dallas is out of contract at the end of this season. And at the start of last season, it was difficult to see him earning a new deal. The 28-year-old was not seen as a starting winger and this might have led to a Leeds exit.
But he has been revived in this right-back role. And according to TEAMtalk, he is set to sign a new contract. This is a testament to a brave and bold decision by Bielsa that has paid off.