Striker Erling Braut Haaland played a part in each of Borussia Dortmund’s goals as they thrashed Schalke 4-0 in the Ruhr derby at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday, as European football activities which were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic resumed in Germany.

The game was played in front of empty stands in a stadium otherwise known for its festive atmosphere.

Elsewhere, RB Leipzig’s title hopes were dealt a blow as they drew 1-1 against Freiburg.

After a jittery start from both sides, understandably so, Dortmund kicked into gear as Haaland was at the heart of every move. The Norwegian then got onto the scoresheet following a deft move. A little dance observed with physical distancing guidelines later, Haaland was back hounding the Schalke backline again.

The second came from Portuguese Raphael Guerreiro, who earned a brace through well-taken goals. The first was a cool finish from a swift counter-attack to give Dortmund a two-goal lead at the break.

Schalke, then, surrendered in the second half. Two minutes following the restart, Thorgen Hazard, who set up the opener, latched onto a through ball from Julien Brandt and dispatched it to the bottom corner.

At the hour mark, Guerreiro beat the offside trap to receive Haaland’s pass and bundle it in the roof of the net. Dortmund created more chances but were mostly happy to maintain possession and see out the game.

The Bundesliga became the first top European league to return 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. 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.

Social distancing

Haaland 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.

Mass testing

The DFL has made no secret of the fact that several clubs are already in a dire financial situation as a result of the lockdown. If they are able to complete the nine remaining rounds of matches by June 30, clubs could receive around $324 million in money from television contracts. Clubs in England, Spain and Italy, where leagues are weeks away from returning, will be watching to see how the weekend goes.

The Bundesliga has been expecting millions of extra fans to watch coverage worldwide. In Germany, there were concerns that fans would try to approach stadiums to support their teams from afar. Police in Dortmund appealed to fans to stay at home and broadcaster Sky reported it was quiet outside the ground. Some players and coaches have already fallen foul of the rules.

Augsburg’s new coach Heiko Herrlich had ruled himself out of his side’s 2-1 home defeat against Wolfsburg after leaving the team hotel to buy toothpaste. While Herrlich was criticised, there was sympathy for Union coach Urs Fischer after he broke quarantine following a family bereavement. It means he must miss his side’s clash with Bayern.

Ex-Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou, 34, was suspended by Hertha for shaking hands with team-mates. Bavaria’s state leader Markus Soeder warned that those who fail to follow the regulations should expect consequences.

“If the health experts have given you these suggestions, if the league itself has worked out concepts at great expense, then you have to abide by these rules,” Soeder said Friday.

The coronavirus has claimed over 7,800 lives in Germany and a poll by broadcaster ARD showed 56% of the German public are opposed to football’s return. But Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said the return to action was a “good sign”.

Other results

Professional football returned to western Europe earlier in the day as the second-tier Bundesliga 2 resumed with four matches.

South Korean Lee Jae-Sung scored the first league goal in over two months when he gave Holstein Kiel a third-minute lead at Regensburg.

Borussia Moenchengladbach climbed to third with a 3-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt after scoring goals through Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram in the opening seven minutes. Gladbach are three points behind leaders Bayern.

RB Leipzig dropped to fourth after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Freiburg.

(With inputs from AFP)