** As Bundesliga becomes first top football league to return
Norwegian sensation Erling Braut Haaland stole the limelight on Saturday as the German Bundesliga became the first major European football league to return since the coronavirus lockdown, with teams playing in empty, echoing stadiums.
The 19-year-old striker claimed the first goal in Germany’s top flight for over two months to set Borussia Dortmund on the way to a 4-0 win over their local rivals Schalke.
Portuguese international Raphael Guerreiro then added two goals either side of a Thorgan Hazard strike as second-placed Dortmund moved to within a point of leaders Bayern Munich, who are chasing an eighth straight title and play Union Berlin away on Sunday.
Haaland steered a low Thorgan Hazard cross into the far corner on 29 minutes to claim his 10th goal in just nine Bundesliga matches.
It was his 41st goal this season in all competitions and his 13th for Dortmund in just 12 games since joining in January from Red Bull Salzburg.
– Social distancing –
He celebrated by dancing alone — making no contact with team-mates, who clapped him on — to comply with the strict hygiene guidelines which allowed the league to return.
In front of empty terraces and no more than 300 people allowed into Signal Iduna Park, which is normally packed with almost 82,000 fans, Guerreiro added Dortmund’s second goal just before half-time following an error by Schalke goalkeeper Markus Schubert.
Haaland played a role in the build-up to the third goal before Julian Brandt set up Hazard to fire home on 48 minutes.
Schalke looked short of match fitness, while Dortmund were sharper and Guerreiro grabbed his second in style after a one-two with Haaland in the 63rd minute.
Elsewhere, third-placed RB Leipzig were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Freiburg, leaving them four points off top spot.
Defender Manuel Gulde gave visitors Freiburg a shock lead and celebrated by elbow-bumping teammates, before Leipzig striker Yussuf Poulsen grabbed a late equaliser. Freiburg were then denied a stoppage-time winner when a VAR check spotted a marginal offside.
Later, Borussia Moenchengladbach can move up past Leipzig if they win at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bruno Labbadia, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann during the lockdown, made a winning start as Hertha Berlin coach with a 3-0 success at Hoffenheim.
The goals came in quick succession with a Kevin Akpoguma own-goal being followed by Hertha captain Vedad Ibisevic grabbing a second before the Brazilian Matheus Cunha danced past defenders on the way to making it 3-0.
In order to get the political green light to resume this weekend, the German Football League (DFL) has tested players and coaches regularly for the virus and teams have been in quarantine for the past week.
Players and staff must follow stringent hygiene guidelines.
Teams arrived at stadiums in several buses in order to meet social distancing requirements inside vehicles.
Although Germany has suffered far fewer deaths from coronavirus than other large European countries, it is still too dangerous for crowds to return.
Bundesliga becomes first top football league to return
Earlier reports had it that the Bundesliga became the first top European league to return on Saturday during the coronavirus pandemic, behind closed doors and with strict hygiene measures in place.
The first match to kick off was Fortuna Duesseldorf at home to Paderborn.
Second-placed Borussia Dortmund host arch-rivals Schalke in front of empty terraces at Signal Iduna Park, while leaders Bayern Munich, who are four points clear, visit Union Berlin on Sunday.
Also, Germany’s second tier on Saturday became the first professional western European league to resume following the coronavirus lockdown.
The top-flight Bundesliga restarted later in the day at 1330 GMT.
Bundesliga 2 action returned at 1100 GMT, with four matches played behind closed doors and with strict health guidelines in place.
However, the game between Hanover and Dynamo Dresden was postponed after the Dresden squad was forced to quarantine for two weeks due to two positive tests for COVID-19.
South Korean Lee Jae-Sung scored the first Bundesliga goal in over two months by giving Holstein Kiel a third-minute lead in their 2-2 draw at Regensburg.
There was almost immediate drama in Aue’s 3-1 win over Sandhausen, with visitors Sandhausen having defender Dennis Diekmeier sent off in the fourth minute for conceding a penalty.
The leagues are hoping to conclude by the end of June, having been suspended in mid-March, with nine rounds of regular-season matches to be played. (AFP)
See full results of all matches played so far on Bundesliga's return today May 16, 2020 as obtained by NEWS FLAKES NG;
Augsburg 1-2 Wolfsburg
Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Schalke 04
Fortuna Düsseldorf 0-0 SC Paderborn 07
Hoffenheim 0-3 Hertha BSC
RB Leipzig 1-1 Freiburg
18:30 E. Frankfurt v B. Mönchengladbach
VfL Bochum 1848 3-0 FC Heidenheim
FC Erzgebirge Aue 3-1 SV Sandhausen
SSV Jahn Regensburg 2-2 Holstein Kiel
Karlsruher SC 2-0 SV Darmstadt 98
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