By Jerry Mancini.
The wait for football to return is over as the Bundesliga became the first of Europe’s top leagues to return to action.
One of the most anticipated matches this weekend was the Revierderby encounter between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04.
The two sides returned from a long lay off but it didn’t make the players forget how much this match means to both sides.
The feeling was quite different as no fans were in attendance, yet it was still an entertaining match on the pitch, at least for one set of supporters watching from home, as Dortmund cruised to a 4-0 win.
Haaland Picks Up Where He Left Off
A two-month lay off couldn’t keep the young forward off the scoresheet. Haaland put in a strong performance, scoring a goal for himself as well as assisting Raphael Guerreiro’s second.
Near the half-hour mark, the 19-year-old made a beautiful, direct run into the box splitting two defenders before expertly turning home Thorgan Hazard’s cross.
Since arriving from Red Bull Salzburg in the winter transfer market, the Norwegian has really made a name for himself. He now has ten goals in nine Bundesliga matches and is already showing why the club were so keen to sign him in January ahead of other sides across Europe.
His instincts were sharp throughout the match, and he was a driving force as well as creating a couple of chances. Still only a teenager, the future is bright for Haaland.
Dortmund Make A Statement
Dortmund continued where they left off before the break and have now won four straight matches and seven of their past eight in the league.
Although the match started slowly for both sides, it didn’t take long for the home team to find their rhythm, going on to dictate the majority of the match.
While Haaland continues to lead the way, other players have stepped up this season when called upon. Giovanni Reyna picked up an injury during warm-up ahead of this match and Jadon Sancho was unable to start. This opened up a spot for Hazard, and any club would be glad to have him as such an option.
The Belgian did a superb job filling the void and rewarding the decision of Dortmund manager Lucien Favre to put him into the starting eleven. Like Haaland, Hazard managed a goal and an assist.
Dortmund controlled possession which was 60% to 40% in their favour and at the same time were much more clinical and assertive. When approaching the final third, Hazard, Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi caused lots of problems for Schalke, who struggled to defend their crosses and passes into the box.
When Schalke entered the final third, they struggled to create or sustain any pressure as the Dortmund defence proved too strong.
It was an all-round statement for Dortmund, and league leaders Bayern will now be in no doubt that they have work to do to defend their crown.
No Fans No Feeling
The match had a strange feeling right from the moment the referee blew for kick-off. Even before that, a faint version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” echoed around an empty Westfalenstadion.
Though Dortmund and Schalke had their starting eleven players, the referees were in place to manage the match, coaches were on the sideline, and substitutes were watching in the stands albeit six-feet apart from each teammate, the one thing that was missing was the biggest miss of all — the fans.
The players and staff could be heard as they were yelling with each other, yet when a mistake was made, and as the action ebbed and flowed, it didn’t have the same vibe as a normal match, and especially not of a local derby.
The fans are always the first to be heard with their chants, booing, or agonizing if their side concede a goal. Above all, the support of the fans for their players was missing.
Covid-19 has truly given the game of football a different feeling. While the game hasn’t changed on the pitch, it has definitely changed off it as the fans are the other side of the game which makes it feel complete as they provide atmosphere around the occasion.
With the win, Dortmund keep pace with Bayern Munich at the top of the table with the league leaders set to face Union Berlin on Sunday evening.