BERLIN — Erling Haaland scored the Bundesliga’s first goal in more than two months and then celebrated.
His Borussia Dortmund teammates stayed away, mindful of the strict hygiene measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Germany’s soccer season resumed in unprecedented conditions Saturday.
Dortmund defeated Schalke 4-0 in the first Ruhr derby to be played in an empty stadium. Calls and shouts from coaching staff and players, and the thud of the sanitized ball being kicked, reverberated around the mainly deserted stands.
Players had been warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging, in a game keenly watched by the rest of the soccer world hoping to restart their leagues.
Haaland celebrated his opening goal with a restrained dance as his teammates stayed back.
“It’s hard,” midfielder Julian Brandt said. “But that’s the way it is now. We try to stick to the rules.”
Brandt set up Raphael Guerreiro before the break and Thorgan Hazard after it. Hazard celebrated alone in front of the Westfalenstadion’s south terrace, where normally the club’s “Yellow Wall” of almost 25,000 fervent fans would be standing.
“It felt strange, also for the players. You could see that with the celebrations,” Dortmund team coordinator Sebastian Kehl said.
Haaland set up Guerreiro to seal the result as Dortmund cut the gap on league leader Bayern Munich to a point. Bayern is due to play at Union Berlin on Sunday.
Team staff, and players who didn’t start, wore masks. Substitutes took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the field as customary, while balls and seats were disinfected.
Schalke became the first team to make five substitutions in a Bundesliga game in a new temporary measure allowed in the league. Dortmund’s players celebrated in front of the empty south terrace afterward.
“To applaud all our fans who were watching on TV,” Kehl said.
Pregame television interviews were conducted with long poles holding microphones and participants keeping their distance.
“It’s quite surreal,” Dortmund chief executive Hans Joachim Watzke told Sky TV. “I’ve received messages from all over the world in the last couple of hours that everybody is watching, and then you go through the city, and there’s nothing going on.”
In other games Saturday: Hertha Berlin won 3-0 at Hoffenheim in coach Bruno Labbadia’s first game in charge; Freiburg drew at Leipzig 1-1; Paderborn drew at Fortuna Düsseldorf 0-0; and Wolfsburg won 2-1 at Augsburg, where the home side’s new coach, Heiko Herrlich, was forced to watch from the stands after breaking quarantine to buy toiletries. Herrlich will return only after twice testing negative for the virus.
Celebrations were muted throughout, with only Hertha’s players appearing to overstep calls for restraint.
They were the first games to be played in the league since March 11.
In a late game, Borussia Mönchengladbach moved third, three points behind Bayern, with a 3-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Earlier Saturday, the second division resumed with four games, also without fans present and amid strict distancing measures.
The game’s authorities were keen to restart the country’s top two divisions with several clubs, including Schalke, facing severe financial difficulties because of the suspension in play.
Numerous polls showed a growing majority in Germany were against the resumption of the leagues. Fans are also critical of games without fans present.
“Soccer without fans is nothing,” read a joint statement from several Bayern Munich fan groups after the league decided May 7 to resume.
Cologne fans accused authorities Saturday of prioritizing money over people’s health. A banner at Augsburg’s game against Wolfsburg said, “Soccer will survive, your business is sick!”
There was criticism from players, too.
Karlsruher SC midfielder Marc Lorenz told the Badische Neueste Nachrichten newspaper that the league hadn’t considered the health of the players “at all” in its rush to get back. He warned of fatigue leading to serious injuries.
Players and staff members have been subjected to regular testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Three cases were found at Cologne, and second-division Dynamo Dresden was ordered into 14 days of quarantine after two more cases brought its total to three last Saturday. Dresden’s game against Hannover on Sunday was called off, and the team cannot train during the quarantine period.
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