KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Germany set an example to the game as live elite-level league football returned with the restart of the Bundesliga programme after a 61-day suspension enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.
The German example, with no fans and strict health protocols governing every factor down to socially-distanced substitutes, was watched intently elsewhere – in particular from England, Italy and Spain where the top leagues are all hoping to plot a return to action next month.
Premier League clubs in England continue to target a June 14 restart while the Italian clubs and national authorities wrangle over how to approach the desire to see Serie A resume.
The Bundesliga programme featured, by coincidence, one of the major domestic derbies with Borussia Dortmund easily beating old local rivals Schalke 4-0 in their virtually empty Signal Iduna Park.
Champions and league leaders Bayern Munich maintained their four-point lead on Sunday by defeating Union Berlin 2-0 in the capital.
Robert Lewandowski’s 40th goal of the season, from a penalty, and a Benjamin Pavard header were enough to see Bayern triumph at the empty Stadion An der Alten Forsterei.
On Saturday Erling Haaland had carried on where he left off before the coronavirus suspension as the teenager kicked off Borussia Dortmund’s victory over Schalke 04 in an entertaining, if surreal, derby.
January signing Haaland’s 10th league goal set Dortmund on course for victory with Raphael Guerreiro’s brace and Thorgan Hazard’s strike seal success against David Wagner’s men in this Geisterspiel.
The match saw nine substitutions as the International Football Association Board is temporarily allowing five changes per team. That was just one of many of the Covid-19 quirks, along with the way Dortmund’s players distanced themselves before celebrating in front of an empty Sudtribune after narrowing the gap on leaders Bayern to one point.
In the Saturday evening match Borussia Monchengladbach kept their title hopes on track by cruising to a 3-1 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt. Victory lifted them into third spot.
Alassane Plea opened the scoring with an angled strike after 37 seconds 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.
Earlier RB Leipzig 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.
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.
Strugglers Fortuna Düsseldorf and Paderborn drdew 0-0 though Fortuna were unucky after hitting the posts four times.
** Club Brugge have been formally declared 2019-20 Belgian champions