The substitutes and coaches sat two metres from each other, all wearing face masks except the two managers. The only fans visible were those featured in video footage. The shouts of the players were underlaid by the constant hum of the electrics that power Signal Iduna Park, built to host the 80,000-plus crowd that would normally attend a Revierderby.
Erling Braut Haaland’s 29th-minute opener, a casual flick from Thorgan Hazard’s cross, though, was a resumption of a normality. The teenager finished a difficult chance with nonchalance, before celebrating alone in front of an empty terrace. That began his team’s destruction of their rivals from Gelsenkirchen, one that took Haaland’s side to within a point of the leaders, Bayern Munich.
Dortmund’s return to action ended with their players celebrating a first league victory over Schalke since 2015 by saluting the 25,000 absent friends usually to be found in the stadium’s Yellow Wall. “We stick to the rules but of course we would like to have our fans as it would be a different feeling,” said the midfielder Julian Brandt. “For the first game back after so long, it was good.”
David Wagner’s Schalke have not won a match since 17 January and did not look revived by having two months off. They were sluggish and lacked the quality to trouble a defence expertly marshalled by the veterans Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek.
Brandt set up Dortmund’s second after Haaland had hassled Schalke goalkeeper Markus Schubert into a mistake; Raphaël Guerreiro smashed home gleefully. Far quicker to find their step, Dortmund dominated despite their absentees including Axel Witsel, Emre Can and the club captain, Marco Reus.
Having celebrated his 20th birthday during lockdown, Jadon Sancho did not come off the bench until the 79th minute, having to wait even after 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna, son of the former United States captain Claudio Reyna, suffered an injury in the warm-up and lost the chance to make a first Dortmund start.
Until Sancho’s arrival, it was left to Schalke’s Jonjoe Kenny, loaned from Everton, to represent England in European football’s return to action beyond the borders of Belarus.
Haaland’s desire to add to the 12 goals he had scored for Dortmund since his January arrival was apparent from the start but his unsettling of defenders was key to all of his team’s goals. For the third, three minutes after half-time, he was braver than Salif Sané in the tackle after a Schalke attack. Brandt found time and space to set up Hazard to score.
When Guerreiro was again sent clear to score Dortmund’s 63rd-minute fourth, it was from Haaland’s pass. The Portuguese wing-back and Norwegian forward celebrated together at the appropriate distance, sticking to the guidelines that have allowed the Bundesliga to return.
Elsewhere, Dortmund’s fellow title hopefuls RB Leipzig lost ground when being held 1-1 at home by Freiburg, who had an injury-time winner ruled out by VAR. Borussia Mönchengladbach made short work of Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring after 40 seconds through Alassane Pléa in a 3-1 win at that took them above Leipzig into third, three points off the top. Marcus Thuram doubled their lead in the seventh minute before Ramy Bensebaini’s penalty preceded André Silva’s late consolation.
Augsburg, whose manager, Heiko Herrlich, missed the game after violating quarantine regulations, stayed in relegation trouble when losing 2-1 in the last minute after Daniel Ginczek’s winner for Wolfsburg. The Hertha Berlin forward Vedad Ibisevic haunted his former club by scoring in a 3-0 win at Hoffenheim. The bottom club, Paderborn, held fellow relegation strugglers Fortuna Düsseldorf to a goalless draw.
Leaders Bayern Munich will visit Union Berlin on Sunday, looking to open up a four-point gap at the top. Union’s coach, Urs Fischer, will miss the game after breaking quarantine. Fischer reportedly visited family after the death of his father-in-law.