By Sabeel Hazir
The world has never loved Germany more than it has this past weekend. With all the problems people are facing, it was our friends in good old Deutschland who provided us with some much-needed release. The Bundesliga was back in action this weekend and many a man, woman, and child were glued to their TV sets to watch all the action. After what seemed like forever without any live matches of the beautiful game, fans from around the globe were drawn to the weekend’s fixtures like a hipster drawn to vinyl. These games were slightly different than the spectacles we were used to seeing, however.
For starters, there were no fans!!! With current restrictions in play due to the current global pandemic, the remainder of this season will be played out behind closed doors. We could also talk about the new rules put in place, such as the social distancing measure put in place between the substitutes on the bench and the fact that now teams can use a maximum of 5 substitutes in a match. Rules have been put in place regarding physical contact, for example players are not permitted to shake hands. There were also guidelines for celebrations but as the weekend progressed it seemed clear even with no fans around, the players were unable to contain their passion after scoring a goal. Nevertheless, it was football and that is what I shall focus on.
We kicked things off with the Revierderby, or the derby match between Schalke and Dortmund. It was as you expected a game after such a long break to be, extremely cagey in the opening 20 minutes with nothing resembling quality being shown from either team. It was beautiful. Then nearing the half hour mark, Thorgan Hazard (or the forgotten brother as I tend to call him) was played through by a beautiful Julian Brandt flick, the young Belgian then whipping the ball low into the box. Then step up young Erling Braut Håland to tuck the ball away with a difficult finish but making it look ever so casual. The young Norwegian simply will not be stopped and on the day, neither were Dortmund. Raphaël Guerreiro managed to bag himself a wonderful brace, with the second goal being the goal of the day, and Thorgan Hazard put the final nail in Schalke’s coffin.
The game ended 4-0 and it was just the exciting start we needed. Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin managed to pummel Hoffenheim 3-0 away from home (although without the fans I don’t think home advantage counts for much) and get closer to a top half finish. Dusseldorf played out a goalless draw with Paderborn and Leipzig somewhat surprisingly were held to a one all draw against Freiburg. Augsburg only managed to get a goal whilst having two put past them by Wolfsburg and Frankfurt suffered a 3-1 defeat to Gladbach.
That was Saturday over and done with, but we still had two more days of action. Sunday saw the day start off with Mainz pulling off a brilliant comeback against Koln, being 2-0 down to bring it back to 2-2 to salvage a point. In truth Koln were the dominant force for most of the game but took their foot off the pedal after going 2-0 up and allowing the opposition back into the game. Then it came time to watch the reigning German champions in action, the mighty Bayern Munich. They took on mid table opposition in the form of union Berlin, who were hoping that the champions would show signs of ring rust and perhaps not be at their best.
They were not entirely wrong but alas, Bayern had too much in the locker for Union on the day. They started off looking sharp but a few misplaced long balls from Thiago and Boateng early on suggested that perhaps we were not going to see the sharpest Bayern. Union created the better chances initially, despite having barely any of the possession, opting to go direct and hoping to catch Bayern off guard. However, an error from Bundesliga veteran Subotic led to Bayern winning a penalty. The minute Robert Lewandowski put the ball down on the spot, there was only ever going to be one outcome. He gave Bayern the lead and continues his hunt to break Gerd Mullers record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season, currently sitting on 26 goals in the league although he has scored 40+ in all competitions for the fifth season running.
Pavard would end any hopes Union had of a draw with an 80th minute goal, heading home from a corner. Bayern march onwards towards the title. The last game would be played on Monday evening between Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen. Bremen were blown away by Leverkusen with the game ending 4-1 to the away team and once again, the world was treated to the brilliance of up and coming superstar Kai Havertz. The young German starlet bagged himself a brace and showcased the attributes which have European giants chasing after him.
All in all, was the action anything extraordinary? No. The break from the game made it all seem grander than it was. Is this the future of football going forward? Maybe. These changes to the game may be around for some time and although football without the fans in the grounds seems hollow, this new normal is something we shall have to get used to. Finally, was it just nice to watch a live game of football and for 90 minutes just feel like we are progressing towards a future where we beat this virus? Yes, yes it was. As odd as it may have been watching the games this weekend with all the new laws in place, it was still just football. I may be slightly frustrated that I am not able to go kick a ball around with my mates yet but having the footy back on TV makes me feel like those days will also one day return. In the meantime, I put my faith in Germany and the Bundesliga. Auf Wiedersehen.