Dortmund run riot as Bundesliga returns

Borussia Dortmund hammered local rivals Schalke 4-0 as the Bundesliga returned in empty stadiums

Amid the face masks, empty stadiums and endless rules to enable playing during the coronavirus crisis, there remains the small matter of the German Bundesliga title - and Saturday's return showed three contenders in very different form.

Borussia Dortmund brilliantly dismantled Ruhr derby rivals Schalke 4-0 at the 81,000-capacity Signal Iduna Park to stay second and move within a point of leaders Bayern Munich.

Borussia Moenchengladbach beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 to go third and stay two points off Dortmund, while RB Leipzig in contrast laboured against Freiburg to draw 1-1 at home.

Only a marginal VAR decision for offside prevented late defeat. Fourth-place Leipzig could find themselves seven points off the pace should Bayern defeat Union Berlin on Sunday.

"What could be better than starting the season again with such a win?" asked Dortmund's Julian Brandt, who set up his team's second goal for Raphael Guerreiro - who scored a brace - and third for Thorgan Hazard.

"It's hard (playing in a closed stadium) ... but that's the way it is now. We try to stick to the rules," added Brandt.

19-year-old Norwegian hitman Erling Haarland opened the scoring to continue his superb run of goals - his 10th in nine Bundesliga games since joining from Red Bull Salzburg - and Dortmund scarcely missed the absent Marco Reus, Axel Witsel and Emre Can and Dan-Axel Zagadou.

"We played a really good game," said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc.

"We didn't know where we would be after this long break."

Players had been warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging with the games keenly watched by the rest of the soccer world hoping to restart their own leagues.

Team staff, and players who didn't start, wore masks. Substitutes took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the field, while balls and seats were disinfected.

Visitors Schalke became the first team to make five substitutions in a Bundesliga game in a new temporary measure allowed in the league, but they couldn't change the outcome. Dortmund's players celebrated in front of the empty south terrace afterward.

"This was no different from the game we used to play when we were children. Without spectators, just having fun. You could see that was the case for the team," an ecstatic Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki told reporters.

Elsewhere, Augsburg coach Heiko Herrlich watched his team for the first time from a lounge rather than the bench as punishment after breaking quarantine during the week to visit a supermarket.

His relegation-threatened team lost 2-1 at home to Wolfsburg, who went sixth.

Bruno Labaddia also made his debut as Hertha Berlin coach with a 3-0 win at Hoffenheim in a mid-table encounter.

Labaddia didn't include Socceroos winger Mathew Leckie in his 17-man squad, while neither 16th-placed Fortuna Dusseldorf or bottom club Paderborn gained much from a goalless draw.