As football has been on hold for over 2 months, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the expectation for its return was high. The first top league to return to action was the German Bundesliga table, which restarted this past weekend with the Bundesliga fixtures being played behind closed doors.
Several leagues, like the Ligue 1 schedule and the Belgian league decided to end their league the way it was: PSG and Club Brugge were decided as Champions. Others, like the MLS table and the Premier League are still deciding what to do.
The Germans, however, decided to make an early return to give closure to the season.
When does the Bundesliga start?
If you were asking yourself ‘When does the Bundesliga start?’ the answer was this weekend, May 15th.
Still, besides having no fans on the stands, the teams and staff had to follow several procedures to ensure that the health regulations were kept on track. Firstly, players arrived on different buses to certify they complied with the social distancing rules.
Police patrolled the stadiums to make sure that no fans were seen gathering around the areas where the matches took place. The only people allowed were the players, coaches, media, medical staff, ball boys, and any other indispensable crew for the normal development of the games.
The balls were disinfected before the match and at half time. Also, the players were instructed to not touch each other unnecessarily, and avoid group gatherings during goal celebrations.
As much as these rules seem odd, especially considering football is a contact sport and it is inevitable that the players touch each other, fans were eagerly waiting for this weekend. Despite all these special conditions, everyone was hyped to watch football again on their telly.
Here is how the weekend unfolded in the Bundesliga post-COVID-19 break.
Union Berlin 0 x 2 Bayern Munich
Bayern was 4 points ahead on the leadership of the Bundesliga before the Coronavirus break. The Bavarians restarted their title pursuit with a visit to the German capital, to face Union Berlin.
Union is doing a tremendous campaign for a team that has been promoted for the first time to the Bundesliga this season. They are currently 12th, safe from the relegation places when there are around less than 8 games to play.
The Berliners were able to hold the null on the scoreline till the end of the first half when the inevitable Robert Lewandowski broke the deadlock.
The Polish striker scored his 40th goal of the season, from the penalty spot, cementing his 1st place on the Bundesliga top scorers.
The Germans doubled their lead, when Benjamin Pavard scored from a header, following a corner kick. It was the second goal for the Frenchman and World Cup winner with Bayern Munich, curiously both have been scored against Union Berlin.
With 26 games played, and 8 to go, Bayern holds comfortably to their 4 point lead. Surely, coach Hansi Flick, who replaced Niko Kovac in November, must be happy with his team’s performance.
Will they be able to renew their Bundesliga title once again?
Borussia Dortmund 4 x 0 Schalke 04
Dortmund is still holding on to the chasing pack for the Bundesliga title, even though they blew several matchpoints throughout this season. The return of the fixtures brought an interesting one, with the Yellow Wall hosting the Revierderby.
The classic match that opposes Dortmund to it’s rival Schalke 04 was probably more one-sided than fans expected. The home team raided easily throughout the opposing defense, with Haaland cruising to break the deadlock in the first half.
Even without his classic yoga celebration, due to COVID-19 imposed restrictions, Erling Haaland, the Norwegian prodigy that Dortmund signed in January, added another goal to his tally. A total of 41 goals, which includes his 10 in 8 Champions League matches.
However, Dortmund’s dominance did not end up so early, as Raphael Guerreiro doubled the lead on the Signal Iduna Park. The Portuguese international would complete the 4×0 scoreline, with a brace, after Thorgan Hazard had signed his name to score the third.
Borussia Dortmund has 54 points and with 4 points distance to Bayern Munich still holds the dream of achieving the title they miss since 2012.
RB Leipzig 1 x 1 Freiburg
Not such a cheerful return for RB Leipzig, that saw their hopes for a first Bundesliga title ever splash into a draw against Freiburg.
Freiburg, who last season was struggling to stay on the first division, is doing a positive season, sitting near European places at the moment. So, it was no surprise they caused an upset, as defender Manuel Gulde scored the opener during a corner kick.
Leipzig sought the equalizer but only found it in the dying minutes of the second half. Danish striker Youssef Poulsen was the author of the goal, with a header.
The visitors were closer to secure a win, as Robin Koch scored the 1×2 for Freiburg in extra time. The German international was, however, ruled offside and the game ended up in a 1×1 draw.
Hoffenheim 0 x 3 Hertha Berlin
Hertha Berlin signed a new coach during the Coronavirus interruption, as Bruno Labbadia replaced Jurgen Klinsmann. The former Bayern Munich striker had coached Wolfsburg and Hamburg before, so he was no stranger to managing in the Bundesliga.
The return fixture for Hertha was a visit to Hoffenheim and the game could not have suited better to the visitors. Although the first half had no goals, the second one made up for it.
An unfortunate own goal by Kevin Akpoguma set Hertha on the lead, with Ibisevic doubling the score. The highlight of the afternoon was reserved for the third goal: Matheus Cunha, who arrived from Leipzig in January, concluding a sublime solo run.
Nonetheless, the result, the players from Hertha were criticized for not avoiding social distancing while celebrating. Especially defender Dedryck Boyata, who allegedly decided to give a kiss to Grujic following a goal.
Koln 2 x 2 Mainz 05
Mainz 05 faced Koln on the Bundesliga return, hoping that a victory would drag them away from the relegation zone. In the end, the visiting side had to be grateful to sneak away with a point.
Mark Uth opened the scoresheet on the 6th minute from the penalty spot and Florian Kainz doubled Koln’s advantage in the second half. It looked like a comfortable victory was on the cards for Koln.
Former Liverpool player Taiwo Awoniyi brought Mainz back into the game discussion and 10 minutes later Kunde equalized. The Cameroonian midfield found a highway through the middle of Koln’s defense, who seemed incapable of stopping him.
A goal that rescues Mainz back into the safe places above the relegation line.
Eintracht Frankfurt 1 x 3 Borussia Monchengladbach
Monchengladbach continues to be the attacking force they were before the break and they made Eintracht Frankfurt suffer. It took just 1 minute for the team who is rocking on the 3rd place of the table to open the score.
Alassane Plea put Gladbach in front and just 6 minutes later his partner in crime, Marcus Thuram, scored too. The French duo together has 19 goals and 11 assists this season.
A penalty converted by Bensebaini on the second half gave a comfortable 0x3 lead to Gladbach. Andre Silva scored a consolation goal, but the visiting team should be happy with the score.
They keep their 6 point distance to Bayern and hold into Champions League places.
Augsburg 1 x 2 Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg extended their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 7 straight games, as they visited and defeated Augsburg.
Renato Steffen opened the score before the interval, but Jedvaj tied up the game on the restart. It took Wolfsburg into the compensating time to secure the 3 points, coming through a goal from substitute Daniel Ginczek.
The Volkswagen sponsored team holds to the 6th place, eager to grab at least the last Europa League seat.
Fortuna Dusseldorf 0 x 0 Paderborn
It was an uneventful afternoon in the F95 zone, as Fortuna Dusseldorf hosted Paderborn to a 0x0 draw. It was a match between strugglers since Paderborn is last placed and Dusseldorf is just 2 places above.
Despite hitting the woodwork 4 times and having double the shots on target than their counterpart, F95 was unable to break Paderborn’s defense. The teams continue on their previous positions and will be expecting better outcomes next weekend.
Werder Bremen 1 x 4 Bayer Leverkusen
Bremen worsened their position in the league as they conceded a heavy defeat to Bayer Leverkusen this Monday. On the game that closed the matchday 26 of Bundesliga’s schedule, we saw Peter Bosz’s side dominating a game and getting a fair advantage over its opponent.
Kai Havertz opened the score, answering to a cross from Moussa Diaby. Almost immediately Werder Bremen answered from a corner kick. Czech fullback Gebre-Selassie appearing on the left post to confirm the equalizer.
However, Werder Bremen’s apathetic defense allowed Kai Havertz once again to head his second, following a free-kick. The young midfielder had no opposition when he appeared at the center of the box to score.
The second half did not give a better display to Werder Bremen, as the ‘Die Grün-Weißen‘ showed again an incredible lack of defending presence. Diaby with another cross offered a goal to Weiser, who just had to nod it in front of Pavlenka.
Demirbay confirmed the result, making it 4, as he got isolated in front of Pavlenka and embarrassed the Czech keeper with a cheeky simulation, before scoring.
Werder Bremen is now 17th, 5 points below the 16th placed team in the Bundesliga table. It will take quite a miracle for them to avoid descending into Bundesliga 2.
There you have it, all the emotions of the 26 matchday of Bundesliga schedule. Where did you watch the return of the Bundesliga? Stay safe, stay home, and enjoy football!