Borussia Dortmund provided much-needed fireworks with a 4-0 demolition of bitter rivals Schalke 04 on Saturday after the German league restarted in front of empty stands after a suspension of over two months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bundesliga is the first major soccer league to return to action since the virus earlier this year shut down sports, and its return in a country that still has hundreds of positive virus cases a day is being closely watched by other leagues.
With a strict health protocol governing the fragile restart, which includes no fans, face masks for everyone but the players, no handshakes and no group celebrations, it was up to title hopefuls, Dortmund, who face leaders Bayern Munich in 10 days’ time, to find a spark badly missing in the eerily empty ground.
The Ruhr valley club, in second place, scored the first goal of the matchday after nearly half an hour when teenager Erling Haaland connected with a Thorgan Hazard cutback.
The exciting 19-year-old Norway striker, who knocked in his 13th goal in 12 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions, picked up exactly where he left off in March.
He has already gone to the top of the transfer wish list of every major European club and, with an expected audience of a billion for the Bundesliga this weekend, his immediate return to scoring will have only enhanced his already stellar reputation.
Portuguese midfielder Raphael Guerreiro added two more goals and Belgium international Hazard also got on the scoresheet as Dortmund climbed to 54 points, one behind defending champions Bayern, who are in action at Union Berlin on Sunday.
When Schalke brought on Timo Becker to replace Jonjoe Kenny in the 87th minute at the 80,000-capacity Signal Iduna Park, it was the first time in Bundesliga history a team had made five substitutions after FIFA announced the temporary rule change.