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Anfield of Dreams for Cookstown hero Dallas as he makes Premier League bow with Leeds

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Stuart Dallas tracks down Liverpool ace Mo Salah in their clash at Anfield on Saturday

Stuart Dallas tracks down Liverpool ace Mo Salah in their clash at Anfield on Saturday

PA

Stuart Dallas tracks down Liverpool ace Mo Salah in their clash at Anfield on Saturday

Ten years after making his Crusaders debut and eight since moving across the Irish Sea, Stuart Dallas finally reached the promised land of the Premier League.

And he couldn't have taken his bow at a more revered stage than the home of the champions and his boyhood favourites, Liverpool.

The vast Anfield stands might have been empty, but Dallas had plenty of support. There was no shortage of well-wishers from banners above the streets of his home town Cookstown to Norway's Leeds-born sensation Erling Haaland seeking him out to swap shirts after Monday's Nations League clash at Windsor Park.

The 29-year-old didn't let them down as he took the occasion in his stride.

This despite playing at left-back - his third different position in consecutive matches for club and country.

And yet he couldn't have had a more rigorous test of his defensive credentials - directly up against the mercurial talents of Mo Salah.

Sure, he had his hands full coping with the Egyptian's darting runs and dancing feet, but he stuck to his task well and was not responsible for Salah's third Premier League hat-trick, two coming from the penalty spot and the other a vicious volley.

There was plenty to admire from Dallas going forward, not least his contribution to the visitors' second goal, breaking at pace and lofting a teasing punt into the danger area that led to an uncharacteristic Virgil van Dijk error that was pounced on by Patrick Bamford.

This was the battle of the Premier League champions and the Championship champions and there was precious little between them in what proved a captivating encounter.

Marcelo Bielsa's newcomers went toe-to-toe with the Reds and Dallas was at the heart of the battle.

Despite his international commitments across Europe in the last week, his high fitness levels came to the fore after the break as others wilted.

Once again, he was involved in both halves of the pitch, stepping up to intercept a loose Trent Alexander-Arnold throw that set in motion a third Leeds equaliser from Mateusz Klich.

There were just over 20 minutes to go and at that stage we were thinking the unthinkable, that the promoted side could end Liverpool's proud 59-game unbeaten home League record, but it wasn't to be with Salah completing his hat-trick late on.

At least Dallas went home in the knowledge that they showed they belong at this exalted level.

And after an awful few days, Ian Baraclough will be buoyed not just by seeing Dallas holding his own at Anfield but Jamal Lewis starting for new club Newcastle at West Ham after a £15m switch from Norwich.

Sunday Life