Germany’s Bundesliga became Europe’s first major football league to return during the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday, with second-placed Borussia Dortmund beating bitter rivals Schalke 4-0 in the Revierderby.
Amid unusual scenes as the match was played behind closed doors, and after Bavarian minister president Markus Soder said on the eve of the restart the league could get called off due to protocol breaches, the world of football watched on expectantly as games in Germany got up and running.
Erling Haaland gave Dortmund the lead on 28 minutes before Raphael Guerreiro doubled the advantage just before half time. Soon after the restart, Thorgan Hazard made it 3-0 to further increase the home side’s advantage. Guerreiro made it 4-0 on 63 minutes with a clever finish and each time, the players did not celebrate in close groups, instead adhering to the policy laid out by the German Football Association (DFL) to follow social distancing after scoring.
Dortmund started the day four points off champions Bayern Munich, who play Union Berlin on Sunday, with United States’ rising star Giovanni Reyna injured in the warm-up when he was set for his first start for the club, and Jadon Sancho only fit enough for the bench.
Reyna’s replacement, Hazard, laid on the opening goal of the match with a fine cross from the right which Haaland deftly converted past Schalke goalkeeper Markus Schubert for his 10th goal in nine Bundesliga appearances.
It continued Haaland’s quite remarkable scoring spree since joining Dortmund from RB Salzburg in January with Saturday’s goal — the first in the Bundesliga since its restart — his 13th in 12 matches for the club.
Dortmund’s second of the match just before half time was a gift, as Schubert’s kick could only find Julian Brandt who found Guerreiro to make it 2-0.
Brandt, who bossed the midfield with a fine individual performance, pointed out that Dortmund benefited from their previous experience of playing behind closed doors when they visited Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in March.
Yet he also rued that his team were unable to celebrate the emphatic win over Schalke with their fans.
“We maybe had the advantage that we had already experienced that once before,” he said. “Overall it is difficult, but it is what it is.
“We stick to the rules but of course we would like to have our fans as it would be a different feeling. For the first game back after so long, it was good.”
Schalke came from 4-0 down at half-time to draw 4-4 at Dortmund three years ago but there was to be no repeat this time, with Hazard netting the game’s third on 48 minutes with another assist from Brandt, though keeper Schubert should have done better. Guerreiro’s fine finish deepened the misery on Schalke just after the hour mark, with Haaland turning provider following a neat exchange of passes.
The Bundesliga had been suspended since March 13 and all games will be held behind closed doors, with a ban on mass gatherings in Germany in place until at least Aug. 31. The German government gave professional football in the country the all-clear to return to action after the DFL took great efforts to present a 51-page plan on how to play in a near risk-free environment.
DFL chief Christian Seifert has said the Bundesliga is playing “on parole” with other major leagues around Europe yet to announce a formal date for their respective restarts.