After two months of waiting, the Bundesliga returned to action this past Saturday. With all nine games being played behind closed doors, home-field advantage seemed to fade away from the matches. Dortmund was the only home side to win this past weekend, with three teams picking up a point.
There was a noticeable difference in play, with some teams coming out of the locker room flat-footed and others playing as they did before the break. While play may have lacked fitness and form at points, it certainly did not lack in goals. 27 goals were scored during matchday with only one game finishing without a goal. On the field, players had to get used to socially distanced celebrations after scoring goals.
With teams working back to normal fitness, the Bundesliga implemented a new five substitution rule to combat fatigue and injuries. Off the field, substitutes had to follow social distancing protocols, utilizing the stands to increase the distance between players.
Although most games had a preseason feel, Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin resumed Bundesliga play with a bang, thrashing FC Schalke 04 and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, respectively. With no fans and warmer temperatures than normal at this point in the season, teams will use the next two weeks to acclimate to the new environment in the Bundesliga.
Borussia Dortmund vs FC Schalke 04 (4-0)
Usually packed with 80,000 screaming fans, Borussia Dortmund hosted Schalke in an empty Signal Iduna Park in the 156th Revierderby. Fans were not expecting to watch the derby from home, but it did not disappoint for neutrals and fans of the Black and Yellows. Following the announcement of the starting squad, Americans were ecstatic to see 17-year-old U.S. international Gio Reyna earn his first Bundesliga start. Sadly, this joy was short-lived as Reyna picked up an injury during warm-ups. This late change did not affect Dortmund, who continued their red hot streak from before the break, pushing the Royal Blues aside with ease. After the final whistle, the Black and Yellows celebrated in front of the empty Yellow Wall, finding joy during difficult times.
The first few minutes of the game were shaky, as both teams tried to get settled in. In the 29th minute, forward Erling Haaland broke the deadlock, tapping in a sublime cross from winger Thorgan Hazard, the Bundesliga’s first goal since March 11th.
As the half came to a close, the BVB began to assert their authority, picking up their second goal in the 45th minute. Taking advantage of a failed clearance by Schalke goalie Markus Schubert, midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud found winger Julian Brandt streaking down the middle of the pitch. Midfielder Raphaël Guerreiro made no mistakes, slotting Brandt’s through ball into the bottom corner far post for Dortmund’s 70th goal of the season, a club record through 26 games.
The Black and Yellows picked up where they left off in the first half, scoring two early goals. Three minutes into the second half Hazard gave BVB a 3-0 lead, smashing a shot past the keeper.
Schalke seemed to gain momentum after the third goal, but finding scoring opportunities proved difficult for the Gelsenkirchen side. In the 63rd minute, Guerrerio picked up his second goal of the game, scoring a beautiful outside the foot curler from a one-two pass with Halland.
After the game’s final goal, play slowed down as players’ time away from the pitch. Each team took advantage of the new substitution rule, combining for nine subs, with seven of them coming after Dortmund’s fourth goal.
RB Leipzig vs SC Freiburg (1-1)
Title contenders RB Leipzig looked like themselves in their first game back, peppering Freiburg’s goal with shots. However, the Red Bulls only earned a point for their efforts. Unlike Leipzig, the visitors converted on their first attempt and almost pulled off an upset. With this draw, Leipzig dropped to fourth in the standings and fell further behind current champions Bayern.
Both sides started the game strong, with Leipzig controlling possession and Freiburg opting to counter-attack. During the first 15 minutes of play, Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow was forced to make multiple saves. On the other hand, Freiburg did not have a shot on target until the 34th minute, which defender Vincenzo Gulde flicked beautifully into the back post from a corner, scoring against the run of play. The visitors almost doubled their lead against the run of play in the 44th minute but captain Christian Günter’s shot rolled wide of the post.
The Red Bulls attacked relentlessly at the start of the half but could not break through Freiburg’s backline. In the 77th minute, striker Yussuf Poulson leveled the game with a powerful header. Shortly after the goal, RB made their final sub bringing midfielder Patrik Schick on for Christopher Nkunku. The substitute almost gave the home side all three points but narrowly missed out on a low-cross.
In the last minute of regulation, Freiburg tried to inject some life into the squad bringing on midfielder Nico Schlotterbeck for Jonathan Schmid. The visitors were almost able to escape Leipzig with an upset but midfielder Robin Koch’s tap-in was chalked off by VAR.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs Hertha Berlin (0-3)
Hertha head coach Bruno Labbadia impressed in his debut, winning convincingly on the road. Labbadia has plenty of experience turning teams around in the Bundesliga, helping Hamburg and Wolfsburg escape relegation. The Old Lady are hoping this change in coaching pans out or they will have to go back to the drawing board and search for their sixth coach this season. Hoffenheim was not an easy test for the new coach, sitting seven points above Hertha before the match.
The first half was nothing special, with both teams combining for two shots on target and eight attempts in total. Where the game lacked in threats on goal, it made up for in physicality. Defender Peter Pekarík, defender Dedryck Boyata, and midfielder Marko Grukic of Hertha each picked up yellow cards for bad fouls in the first 45 minutes of play.
However, Hoffenheim made things easier for the visitors by scoring an own goal at the start of the second half. In the 58th minute, Pekarík volleyed a clearance across the box and Hoffenheim defender Kevin Akpoguma stuck out a leg instinctively. Unfortunately, the ball deflected into his own goal, putting his team a goal behind.
Two minutes later, forward Vedad Ibišević punished his former club, heading a sublime cross past goalie Oliver Baumann to double Hertha’s lead. In addition, midfielder Matheus Cuhna showed a moment of individual brilliance, scoring the Old Lady’s final goal in the 74th minute.
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs SC Paderborn 07 (0-0)
In this fight between 16th place Düsseldorf and last place Paderborn, neither team was able to pick up a much needed three points despite Düsseldorf looking like the stronger team throughout the game. With only a draw, it looks like Paderborn will not be able to avoid the drop to 2. Bundesliga next season.
Midfielder Markus Suttner opened up the action in the 14th minute but the Paderborn backline blocked his attempt in the center of the box. Three minutes later, winger Valon Berisha had Paderborn goalie Leopold Zingerle beat but his volley rang off the post. In the 24th minute, Düsseldorf defender Kaan Ayhan picked up the game’s first booking for a bad foul.
Winger Erik Thommy’s outside the box found its way on target, yet Zingerle was not troubled. In the 31st minute, defensive midfielder Klaus Gjasula had his name taken down after making a tactical foul. A minute later, Düsseldorf narrowly missed taking the lead of the set-piece. Düsseldorf looked the stronger side in the first half but could not find the back of the net.
In the 66th minute, Berisha struck the woodwork for the second time with a powerful header. With 10 minutes left in regulation, Düsseldorf hit the post for the third time.
In the 87th minute, midfielder Christopher Antwi-Adjei almost stole an unlikely winner for Paderborn but blasted a sitter over the crossbar. Antwi-Adjei would be taken off after the miss for winger Antony Evans.
FC Augsburg vs VfL Wolfsburg (1-2)
Both sides entered the game tentatively, with neither team posing a threat on goal at the start of the first half. The Wolves’ physicality at the end of the first half and the final minutes of the game helped the away side leave WWK Arena with all three points. With Saturday’s win, Wolfsburg moved into sixth place and are looking to hold onto their Europa League qualification spot. On the other hand, Augsburg continues to fall down the table, failing to win a game since the start of February.
The first meaningful chance of the game came in the 16th minute off an Augsburg corner. Midfielder Ruben Vargas nearly managed to squeeze a low-driven shot past goalie Koen Casteels. However, the Wolves’ keeper managed to get enough on the initial save to get back and clear the ball off of the goal line.
As the half came to a close, Wolfsburg struck first through midfielder Renato Steffan’s fifth goal of the campaign. The midfielder headed a cross powerfully from the penalty spot into the top corner, leaving Casteels hopeless in goal.
Augsburg leveled things up early in the second half off of a free-kick. The cross from the set-piece did not pose a huge threat but it was Wolfsburg defender John Brooks who created the chance for the home side. Attempting to head the ball out of the box, Brooks made a mess of his clearance, sending it off the underside of his own crossbar. Defender Tin Jedvaj took advantage of the failed clearance, heading the ball across the goal line.
In the 62nd, Wolfsburg thought they had taken the lead but were deemed offside. On the other side of the pitch, Augsburg had a goal chalked off four minutes later. After checking with VAR, the referee changed his ruling on the field and striker Florian Niederlechner, who made the assist, was called offside.
With two minutes left in the game, the Wolves netted a stoppage-time winner. After coming on in the 61st minute for Josip Brekalo, midfielder Daniel Ginczek had barely been involved in the game. Yet, it was the substitute who tapped in defender Kevin Mabubu’s inch-perfect cross.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borussia Mönchengladbach (1-3)
Title contenders Gladbach continued their pursuit of Bayern with a 3-1 win against the Eagles. While Gladbach is searching for their first Bundesliga title since the 70s, the Eagles are barely hovering over the regulation zone. The Foals controlled the game from the opening whistle as Frankfurt struggled to adjust to Bundesliga play after the two-month break.
Gladbach did not waste any time, scoring the opening goal 36 seconds into the match. Sitting flat-footed and backing away from challenges, the Eagles did not make it difficult for Gladbach. The build-up to the goal was very slow, but striker Alassane Pléa took advantage of Frankfurt’s awful defending and slid a shot past goalie Kevin Trapp.
In the seventh minute, the Eagles still had not figured out that they were playing a Bundesliga game, leaving their backline open for the taking. Gladbach did not hesitate and doubled their lead. Outside back Ramy Bensebaini finished an amazing run down the left wing with a low cross to midfielder Marcus Thuram-Ulien, who tapped the ball into the back of Frankfurt’s net.
Entering the second half, neither side looked strong. Both sides made sloppy passes and gave away possession before they could create a threatening chance. The Foal’s nearly struck for a third time in the 67th minute but were denied by the woodwork. Pléa had Trapp, who was at full-stretch, beaten but his fantastic curling effort bounced wide off the far post. The game began to slip away from the Eagles and the Foals were hungry for another goal.
In the 72nd minute, Gladbach was awarded a penalty kick after a lazy tackle by defender Kevin N’Dicka. Trapp was disappointed with his effort on Bensebaini’s pk, guessing the right way but letting the ball slip under his body for the Foals’ third goal.
10 minutes later, Gladbach lost focus and the Eagles scored a consolation goal. Midfielder Sebastian Rode played a ball across the box and substitute striker André Silva smashed home the game’s final goal. Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer was visibly disappointed, failing to keep a clean sheet since Matchday 17 against Hertha Berlin. The goal swung momentum into Frankfurt’s favor but it was too late for the home side to bounce back into the game.
1. FC Köln vs 1. FSV Mainz 05 (2-2)
Kicking off Sunday’s action, mid-table Köln played host to relegation fighters Mainz. The Billy Goats took a hold of the game early, taking a two goal lead in the 53rd minute. This two-goal deficit did not deter the Carnival Club, who leveled the game and left RheinEnergieStadion with a point. With Sunday’s draw, Mainz is still winless at RheinEnergieStadion; the away side has only won once out of 18 meetings in this matchup.
Fans of the Billy Goats decorated the empty RheinEnergieStadion with scarves and signs. While key personnel were allowed on stadium grounds, one notable figure was absent. Köln’s live mascot, Hennes the goat, was not allowed in the stadium due to health concerns. For the first time in 12 years, Köln was without their live mascot. Hennes had just become a father so his time away from work is giving him some much-needed paternity leave.
In the fourth minute, the Billy Goats were awarded a penalty after defender Moussa Niakhate pushed midfielder Mark Uth to the ground. After a two minute VAR review, the decision on the field was confirmed and Uth smashed the game’s opening goal past Mainz keeper Florian Müller. Since Uth’s move to Köln on loan from Schalke 04, he has been involved in a goal contribution per game.
The away side was not overwhelmed by the Billy Goats’ early goal and continued to build into the game. In the 11th minute, the Carnival Club nearly leveled the game. Striker Karim Onisiwo powered through the box fantastically before cutting the ball back to midfielder Jean-Paul Boëtius. If it was not for defender Toni Leistner’s outstretched leg, Mainz would have found the back of the net. Although dominating possession, Mainz found themselves a goal behind heading into the break.
Against the run of play, Köln doubled their lead in the 53rd minute. Breaking down the field quickly, substitute midfielder Dominick Drexler was left wide open on the wing. Drexler swung in an uncontested cross with pace to midfielder Florian Kainz, who buried the cross with a thumping head.
Mainz bounced back in the 61st minute off of a clinical finish from a perfectly placed pass. Second-half substitute, midfielder Taiwo Anwoniyi cut the Billy Goats’ lead in half with his first goal for Mainz.
In the 72nd minute, Mainz leveled the game, breaking through a flat-footed Köln backline. From about 30 yards, defensive midfielder Kunde Malong gained possession and began his run towards goal. Malong left four Köln defenders in his wake before poking the ball past keeper Timo Horn.
1. FC Union Berlin vs FC Bayern München (0-2)
Reigning champions Bayern München maintained their four-point cushion on top of the table, defeating Bundesliga debutantes 2-0 on the road. Union maintained a compact backline, holding back and waiting to counter. The Iron Ones were without head coach Urs Fischer, who returned to his native Switzerland for a death in the family. On the other hand, the Reds benefited from the return of striker Robert Lewandowski, who used the two-month break to recover from a shin fracture. The Reds continued where they left off before the break winning on the back of four straight wins and 31 out of 33 points, whereas Union fell a spot in the rankings following Hertha Berlin’s win.
Bayern applied pressure early on as expected, however, it was the Iron Ones who had the first clear cut chance. Union winger Marcus Ingvarsten dribbled past young left-back Alfonso Davies along the baseline, cutting the ball back to winger Marius Bülter, whose shot went straight to goalie Manuel Neuer.
In the 18th minute, winger Thomas Müller thought he had put Bayern ahead from attacking midfielder Leon Goretzka’s corner. After a brief VAR review, winger Serge Gnabry, who assisted Müller, was deemed offside before he headed the ball across the box.
Union dug themselves a hole in the 39th minute when defender Neven Subotić took Goretzka down in the box with a sloppy tackle. A minute later, Lewandowski fooled the keeper with a delayed runup, before scoring his 40th goal of the season in all competitions.
The champions looked rusty in the first half but dominated possession. The hosts sat back for most of the half, thwarting countless attacks by the Reds, who could only manage a 1-0 lead entering halftime.
In the 55th minute, defender Benjamin Pavard nearly doubled Bayern’s lead but his header flew past the near post. Moments later, Pavard rifled a shot from 25 yards out, almost sneaking his shot in at the near post.
In the 71st minute, winger Kingsley Coman came on as a substitute in the second half, making his 100th Bundesliga appearance for Bayern. With 10 minutes left in the game, Pavard finally found the back of the net, heading home midfielder Joshua Kimmich’s corner. Pavard’s last goal of the season came all the way back on Matchday 9 against Union, where he and Lewandowski secured a 2-1 win.
SV Werder Bremen vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen (1-4)
Entering the game, Bremen had the tied worst attack and worst defensive record in the league. The River Islanders’ problems continued against Leverkusen, giving up three goals after tying the game. In contrast to the home side, Leverkusen climbed within a point of Champions League qualification with Monday’s win. Young captain and striker Kai Havertz looked head and shoulders above the competition, scoring two of Leverkusen’s goals.
Havertz opened up the scoring in the 28th minute, scoring Leverkusen’s 1000th away goal. Midfielder Moussa Diaby worked fantastically down the wing, chipping the ball into Haverty who headed it back in the direction it came from giving Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka no chance at making a save.
Bremen wasted no time tying things up, finding the back of the net two minutes later. Defender Theodor Gebre Selassie’s lovely flick from winger Leonardo Bittencourt’s corner found its way into the bottom corner of the goal through three Leverkusen defenders. Selassie’s game-tying goal ended Bremen’s eight-plus hour goal drought at home and was only the third corner Leverkusen have conceded this season.
It did not take long for Leverkusen to regain their lead. In the 33rd minute, Havertz scored his second header of the game from a set-piece. The young striker was left open and given a free run to the ball. Bremen have trouble with aerial duels, conceding 13 goals from headers this campaign.
In the 61st minute, Diaby recovered from a poor touch and found the unlikely scorer, right back Mitchell Weiser, who headed home his first goal since 2018 against Dortmund. Bremen have trouble with aerial duels, conceding 14 goals from headers this campaign. Weiser’s goal is the first time since 2006 that Leverkusen have scored three headers in a match.
Leverkusen finished off the game in the 78th minute with defensive midfielder Karim Demirbay’s first goal for the Bundesliga club. Pavlenka committed to the ground, letting Demirbay finish with a cheeky chip.
Matchday 27 Preview
On Friday, Union Berlin will take a short across Berlin to the Olympiastadion for the Berlin Derby against Hertha Berlin. Union stole all three points during the reverse fixture with a late minute from substitute forward Sebastian Polter. Hertha will look to get revenge on their cross-town neighbors, while Union tries to bounce back from their loss against Bayern.
Saturday’s action kicks off with a top-five matchup between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The two sides are only separated by two points in the table and will battle it out in next weekend’s premier game. Gladbach will look to gain ground on title holders Bayern, while Leverkusen looks to swap their Europa League spot for a place in the Champions League.
Matchday 27th finishes on Sunday with the Rheinland Derby between 1. FC Köln and Fortuna Düsseldorf. In the reverse fixture, relegation battlers, Düsseldorf came out on top 2-0 at the start of November. Both teams will be looking to win their first game since the Bundesliga’s restart, with Düsseldorf failing to find the back of the net against Paderborn.
- FC Bayern München – 58 points
- Borussia Dortmund – 54 points
- Borussia Mönchengladbach – 52 points
- RB Leipzig – 51 points
- Bayer 04 Leverkusen – 50 points
- VfL Wolfsburg – 39 points
- SC Freiburg – 37 points (-1 Goal Differential)
- FC Schalke 04 – 37 points (-7 Goal Differential)
- TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – 35 points
- 1. FC Köln – 33 points
- Hertha Berlin – 31 points
- 1. FC Union Berlin – 30 points
- Eintracht Frankfurt – 28 points (25 games played)
- FC Augsburg – 27 points (-17 Goal Differential)
- 1. FSV Mainz 05 – 27 points (-19 Goal Differential)
- Fortuna Düsseldorf – 23 points
- SV Werder Bremen – 18 points (25 Games Played)
- SC Paderborn 07 – 17 points
Image Credits: Arne Müseler