They say that you don’t realise what you have until it’s gone, and in the case of football, that couldn’t be more accurate. More than two months without the beautiful game was brought to a beautiful end on Saturday, as the Bundesliga resumed, albeit without fans.
Football returned with a mouth-watering fixture – Borussia Dortmund against Schalke in the Revierderby. Expectations were high and appetites were whetted for any football whatsoever, ready for the long-anticipated return of German football.
Borussia Dortmund needed to kick off their return with all three points, with the gap between them and league leaders Bayern Munich just four points wide. Meanwhile, Schalke were looking for consecutive wins at the Signal Iduna Park for the first time in 15 years, having sealed a famous 4-2 victory last season.
The big pre-match news came in the form of Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho, who was named among the substitutes for only the second time all season. 17 goals and 19 assists in an outstanding season so far wasn’t enough for Sancho to start the derby, a big shock before a ball had even been kicked.
Was it a statement from Lucien Favre, or simply a precaution for a minor injury? Nonetheless, BVB were without their top goalscorer, with youngster Giovanni Reyna coming into the starting XI ready for his full debut.
Except he wasn’t.
A cruel twist of fate saw Reyna pick up an injury in the warm-up, paving the way for Thorgan Hazard to replace him on the right wing. The Belgian had a point to prove in the absence of two teammates, providing crucial service to the main man Erling Haaland up front.
Gio Reyna will be replaced by Thorgan Hazard in the Starting XI as a result of an injury sustained during warm up ?
Get well soon, Gio ? pic.twitter.com/V8RoWrO2wx
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) May 16, 2020
All eyes were on Haaland as the Bundesliga kicked off once again, following his explosive start to his Dortmund career. 12 goals soon turned into 13 goals in a dozen Schwarzgelben appearances, as the Norwegian picked up exactly where he left off – finding the back of the net.
Who else would score the first goal on football’s return?
The finish was audacious, a deft flick enough to beat Markus Schubert in the Schalke goal. It was Haaland’s tenth Bundesliga goal of the season, as he continues to lead the goalscoring charts in 2020. His third goal in five league games put an end to his longest goal drought in the Bundesliga so far – two games.
Of course, Haaland is an expert at finding the back of the net, but that doesn’t mean he has the same quality in setting them up. The 19-year-old assisted Raphaël Guerreiro’s second and Dortmund’s fourth, with a nicely weighted pass into the box. His second assist in two league games, proving how influential Haaland is in front of goal.
Having one brilliant attacker is one thing, but a trio of attacking talent is a privilege for BVB.
Hazard had a fantastic game after coming into the team late, scoring a slick goal having set up the opener for Haaland. The Belgian now has two goals and two assists in his last three Bundesliga games, continuing his red-hot form exactly as Haaland did.
The deserved man of the match, though any of Dortmund’s attackers could’ve won it. Hazard stepped up to the plate brilliantly, linking with Haaland in ruthless fashion en route to the victory.
Despite the impact of Haaland and Hazard, Julian Brandt still found room to be influential, assisting Raphaël Guerreiro and Hazard. Elsewhere, Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi shone bombing down the flanks in behind the attack, with the former especially having an impact by netting a brace.
Dortmund produced a stunning attacking performance, one that echoes the brilliance produced by Favre’s side throughout the campaign. Now just one point off the top of the Bundesliga, the title race is well and truly alive once again, with the pressure on Bayern to win at Union Berlin on Sunday.
BVB had to start as they meant to go on, especially as they prepare to face Bayern in a matter of 10 days. That style of attacking football is what makes Dortmund so attractive and appealing to watch, not to mention their position in second a breath away from the summit of German football.
The title race is well and truly on.
For Dortmund to put such an outstanding performance in after two months without competitive action is one thing, but to do so without their English talisman proves that their attacking wealth has no flaws. If they can smash their rivals 4-0 without the impact of Sancho, does this mean there is life after the English prodigy departs?
There’s no doubt that the Schwarzgelben’s attacking football is the key to their success, and will be the deciding factor if they want to retain the Bundesliga title for the first time since 2012. With the goalscoring instinct of Haaland, the dazzling skill of Hazard and the explosive pace of Guerreiro, this is a trio that can propel them to the Meisterschaft.