Major European football made its cautious return on Saturday as Germany’s Bundesliga became the first of the big five leagues to resume during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid strange new conventions, there were the familiar sights of a dominant Borussia Dortmund performance and VAR controversy.
The voices of players and coaches echoed around empty stadiums, in which players wore face masks in the dressing rooms and during warm-up, respected social distancing on the benches and for the pre-match pleasantries, but then got stuck in on the pitch.
Players may still be feeling their way in after two months off, but Dortmund certainly pulled no punches as they put pressure on leaders Bayern Munich with a thumping 4-0 win in the Revierderby against Schalke.
Erling Haaland opened the scoring, stroking home Thorgan Hazard’s cross and saluting the empty stands, before Raphael Guerreiro doubled the advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Hazard lashed home a third three minutes into the second half before Guerreiro’s cheeky finish gave the hosts an unassailable lead.
The win puts Dortmund one point behind Bayern, who face Union Berlin on Sunday.
1' â½ Plea— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) May 16, 2020
7' â½ Thuram
2-0, faster than you can say 'Borussia MÃ¶nchengladbach' â¡ pic.twitter.com/XnDA4fIdIZ
Borussia Monchengladbach scored after 37 seconds in the evening kick-off as they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 to move up to third, three points off the top.
Alassane Plea opened the scoring with an angled strike and Gladbach’s flying start continued when Ramy Bensebaini set up Marcus Thuram to net inside seven minutes.
Plea hit the post just before Bensebaini netted from the spot in the 73rd minute before Portugal forward Andre Silva hit a consolation for the home team.
Gladbach moved above Leipzig, who dropped points at home but were grateful it was only two in a 1-1 draw as Freiburg were denied victory when Robin Koch’s stoppage-time goal was disallowed by VAR.
Bitter........... Der Videoassistent hat da einen Fingernagel im Abseits gesehen......— SC Freiburg (@scfreiburg) May 16, 2020
The defender was ruled marginally offside as the visitors were forced to settle for a point after Yussuf Poulsen’s 77th-minute header levelled for the hosts, who are now four points behind Bayern.
Manuel Gulde had given Freiburg a 34th-minute lead as they moved up to seventh in the table.
Daniel Ginczek struck a stoppage-time winner for Wolfsburg as they snatched a 2-1 victory at Augsburg.
The striker pounced from close range to move the visitors up to sixth in the table after Renato Steffen’s opener.
Tin Jedvaj had levelled for Augsburg and Felix Uduokhai’s thought his header had put the hosts 2-1 ahead but was disallowed by VAR.
Hertha Berlin seemed at home in Hoffenheim’s empty PreZero Arena as a flurry of second-half goals gave them a 3-0 away win as Bruno Labbadia won his first game in charge.
Kevin Akpoguma diverted Peter Pekarik’s shot into his own net after 58 minutes before Vedad Ibisevic guided a header home to score against his old club seconds later.
Matheus Cunha made sure of the points as he cut in off the left wing to score a fine solo goal.
Fortuna 0-0 Paderborn— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) May 16, 2020
Fortuna have hit the woodwork four times. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/bwg0phmLvp
Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn will both be grateful for the restart as it gives them at least the hope of climbing out of relegation trouble, though neither could take immediate advantage as they drew 0-0.
Fortuna will be the most frustrated after hitting the frame of the goal four times, the last of them a Steven Skrzybski shot which struck the left upright with nine minutes left.