DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) - Borussia Dortmund thrashed traditional rivals Schalke 4-0 to close the gap on champions and leaders Bayern Munich to one point as the Bundesliga restarted on Saturday after a two-month break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The outcome of the Ruhr derby, played with no spectators present as players’ voices echoed in the empty 80,000 capacity stadium, left second-placed Dortmund on 54 points from 26 games, behind Bayern who visit Union Berlin on Sunday.
Schalke, who stretched their winless league run to eight games having scored only two goals in the process, dropped two places to eighth on 37 points.
Dortmund, who had won seven of their last eight games before the league was halted in mid-March, picked up where they left off as Portugal midfielder Raphael Guerreiro scored twice while Erling Haaland and Thorgan Hazard added a goal each.
Schalke became the first Bundesliga side to make five substitutions when Timo Becker replaced Jonjoe Kenny late in the lop-sided contest but gave their coach David Wagner plenty to ponder after a shambolic performance.
The home team fired on all cylinders from the start and Norway striker Haaland opened the floodgates with a trademark finish from inside the penalty area, steering the ball home after a sweeping move down the right.
Julian Brandt released Hazard with a clever touch and the Belgian delivered an inch-perfect low cross for Haaland, who beat goalkeeper Markus Schubert with a first-time shot from eight metres in the 29th minute.
Guerreiro made it 2-0 on the stroke of halftime when he unleashed a fizzing low shot from 14 metres into the bottom left corner after Brandt put him through.
Hazard added the third in the 48th minute after another lightning break by the home side, finding time and space to beat Schubert as Haaland released Brandt and the latter squared the ball past a solitary defender.
Guerreiro put the icing on the cake in the 63rd with a goal of the highest quality, having started the move with a darting run and then finished it with a sublime shot after a defence-splitting pass from Haaland carved Schalke open.
Brandt, who bossed the midfield with a fine individual performance, pointed out that Dortmund benefited from their previous experience of playing behind closed doors when they visited Paris St Germain in the Champions League in March.
Yet he also rued that his team were unable to celebrate the emphatic win over Schalke with their fans.
“We maybe had the advantage that we had already experienced that once before,” he said.
“Overall it is difficult, but it is what it is. We stick to the rules but of course we would like to have our fans as it would be a different feeling. For the first game back after so long, it was good.”
Dortmund celebrated their first league win over Schalke since November 2015 in traditional fashion by lining up in front of the famous Yellow Wall stand after the final whistle, while keeping a two-metre distance from each other.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris, Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis