Bundesliga title hopefuls RB Leipzig needed the help of the video assistant referee (VAR) to grab a 1-1 draw at home to Freiburg when the German top-flight returned to action on Saturday after a two-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leipzig wasted a slew of great chances after falling behind until captain Yussuf Poulsen rose to head them level in the 77th minute.
Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund thrashed traditional rivals, Schalke, 4-0 to close the gap on champions and leaders, Bayern Munich, to one point.
Starting the day five points behind leaders, Bayern Munich, Leipzig seemed to have lost none of their sharpness during the shut-down, with striker Timo Werner looking particularly dangerous in the first half.
However, Freiburg took the lead against the run of play in the 34th minute, with the players celebrating the goal by bumping elbows rather than sharing high-fives and hugs. That goal shook the home side and they eventually found the equaliser.
The draw leaves Leipzig with 51 points after 26 matches, four points behind Munich and three behind Dortmund, while Freiburg climb to seventh in the table on 37 points, ahead of Schalke, on goal difference.
Schalke suffered a 4-nil loss to Borussia Dortmund. The outcome left the second-placed Dortmund on 54 points from 26 matches. Dortmund’s marksman, Erling Haaland, is happy with the team’s performance even without the fans.
“Normally it’s 80,000, but we knew that we had the support at home from the fans so we were never afraid of anything. We knew that we were going to win and you saw today that we had full control. So, a good start. Of course, I’m not in the same. I haven’t been playing games, as you say, for seven weeks, so of course not. But I know that I’ve been working hard this period and I’m not surprised, no.”
Schalke coach, David Wagner, says playing without fans gives them a different atmosphere.
“Yeah, it’s different to play without fans, obviously, it’s different. But I think what everybody misses is the energy which the stadium has if it’s sold out or if it’s a full crowd. This is what everybody misses. But in terms of how I work with my team or coach my team, there was no difference.”
And the world of boxing is celebrating the 64th birthday of former great, Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard, won six world titles in five weight divisions but his career was as much about who he fought and how he fought them as what he won.
Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns fought each other nine times between 1980 and 1989 in the welterweight or middleweight divisions. Leonard says those bouts were really personal.
“It was personal. Really personal. I think it’s all for me about beating the odds. It just hit home. It just hit home. Tommy and I speak periodically. We talk a couple of times a week or whatever. He’ll call me. The last time we spoke was probably a couple of weeks ago. And he said ‘ray, you know, you won the first fight. I won the second fight. We need a third fight.”
Meanwhile, teams are arriving at the Darlington Raceway as NASCAR gears up to be the first major sport in the United States to return to action amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NASCAR stock car racing series will return without spectators and there will be health screenings for those entering and exiting the facility, strict limits of the number of people granted access, enforcement of social distancing and mandated use of protective equipment.