Bayern ease past Union 2-0 in league restart to stay top

Bayern Munich’s French defender Benjamin Pavard, right, heads the ball to score the second goal during the Bundesliga match against FC Union Berlin. (AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2020

Bayern ease past Union 2-0 in league restart to stay top

  • The champions are now on 58 points, with Borussia Dortmund in second place on 54

BERLIN: Champions Bayern Munich scored a goal late in each half to beat promoted Union Berlin 2-0 on their return to the Bundesliga on Sunday after more than two months out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and protect their four-point lead at the top.

League top scorer Robert Lewandowski converted a 40th minute spot kick and Benjamin Pavard headed in a corner in the 80th in an empty stadium, to keep the Bavarians in the driving seat for a record-extending eighth successive league title.

They are now on 58 points, with Borussia Dortmund in second place on 54 following their 4-0 demolition of Schalke 04 on Saturday. There are eight matchdays left in the season.

The Bundesliga is the first major sports league in the world to restart amid the pandemic but games are played without fans.

A set of strict health regulations are governing the matches, including a ban on spectators, limited staff inside and outside the stadium and regular testing.

The empty slabs of the concrete stands in the Alte Foersterei stadium with a few dozen officials, staff and substitutes scattered around were an unusual setting for a return to action of Germany’s most successful club.

But Bayern quickly took control and had an early effort ruled offside.

They had to wait until the 40th minute to score with Lewandowski, chasing Gerd Mueller’s legendary 40-league goal record from 1972, grabbing his 26th of the campaign from the spot.

The game lost some of its pace after the break with the players lacking match practice.

Pavard made sure of the three points when he headed in a Joshua Kimmich corner.

 Earlier, Cologne squandered a two-goal lead and had to sweat to rescue a point in their 2-2 draw with visitors Mainz 05 on Sunday in their first  game back after a two-month suspension due to the COVID-19 virus.

Cologne, looking for their fourth straight league win, thought they had wrapped up the match played without spectators after early goals in each half.

Despite the lack of fans, Cologne had some support as about 1,300 season-ticket holders sent in their favorite club items —  team shirts, scarves or stuffed animals — which were draped over the empty seats.

Mark Uth converted a sixth-minute penalty he won himself and Florian Kainz headed in a perfect Dominick Drexler cross at the far post in the 52nd minute.

But Mainz, led by former Cologne coach Achim Beierlorzer, cut the deficit through Taiwo Awoniyi in the 61st and leveled 11 minutes later thanks to Kunde Malong’s 30-metre solo run and fine finish from inside the box. They also went close to scoring a third in the final minutes.

“I am not saying I am satisfied but we can live with the point,” Cologne coach Markus Gisdol, who succeeded Beierlorzer, said. “That goal (in the second half) was not good for us. It made us too passive. We gave away too much space but maybe that is normal after such a short preparation to return.”

Cologne remained 10th in the standings on 33 points while Mainz moved four points above the relegation playoff spot.

 Borussia Dortmund are a point behind following Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Schalke 04.

The Bundesliga on Saturday became the first major league in the world to restart amid the pandemic.

A set of strict health regulations are governing the matches, including a ban on spectators in or around the stadiums to minimise the risk of infection.


Jordan joins sports world’s call for change after Floyd death

Updated 01 June 2020

Jordan joins sports world’s call for change after Floyd death

  • I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. We have had enough: Michael Jordan

LOS ANGELES: NBA legend Michael Jordan decried “ingrained racism” in the US as the sports world’s reaction to the death of unarmed black man George Floyd leapt leagues and continents.

“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” Jordan said Sunday, as protests over Floyd’s death on May 25 spawned violence and looting across the US. “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country.

“We have had enough,” added Jordan, who was famously reluctant to comment on social issues during his playing career.

Floyd died after a white policeman in Minneapolis held his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck for several minutes.

“We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability,” Jordan said.

Jordan joined a chorus of voices from the NBA, NFL and other US sports demanding change for black Americans, but the demands went far beyond America.

World champion driver Lewis Hamilton lashed out at “white-dominated” Formula One for failing to speak out against racism.

Hamilton warned “I know who you are and I see you” as the Briton accused his fellow drivers of “staying silent in the midst of injustice” following Floyd’s death.

French footballer Marcus Thuram and England international Jadon Sancho both mounted individual protests calling for justice for Floyd after scoring in Germany’s Bundesliga on Sunday.

Thuram took a knee after his goal for Borussia Moenchengladbach in a match against Union Berlin, while Sancho marked one of his three goals for Borussia Dortmund against Paderborn by lifting his jersey to reveal a T-shirt bearing the words “Justice for George Floyd.” 

Thuram’s gesture echoed the protest against US racism spearheaded by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel during the national anthem at games in 2016 sparked outrage.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent an internal memo to the league’s employees saying it shares “the outrage” at the death of Floyd — which comes in the wake of the police killing in Kentucky of emergency health worker Breonna Taylor in her home, and the fatal shooting of unarmed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.

“We are being reminded that there are wounds in our country that have never healed,” Silver said in the memo published by Yahoo.

“Racism, police brutality and racial injustice remain part of everyday life in America and cannot be ignored.”

With US pro sports on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, American athletes had no chance to demonstrate on the field of play.

Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours to lead a peaceful protest march in Atlanta, Georgia.

“First and foremost, I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community,” the Georgia native said.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, himself the son of a policeman, said that as violence escalated it was imperative to keep Floyd’s death at the forefront.

“The response we are seeing across the nation, to the murder of George Floyd, is decades in the making,” Rivers said in a statement. “Too often, people rush to judge the response, instead of the actions that prompted it.

“We have allowed too many tragedies to pass in vain. This isn’t an African-American issue. This is a human issue,” Rivers said.

US tennis great Serena Williams posted an Instagram video featuring a young African-American girl overcome by emotion as she addressed a public meeting, finally able to force out the words: “We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this.”

Teenage tennis phenomenon Coco Gauff had a simple question on her Instagram post: “Am I next?”

And two-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father Haitian, reminded her social media followers: “Just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the violent protests “reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel”.

With Kaepernick still unable to find a job in the NFL, not everyone was convinced by Goodell or by San Francisco 49ers chief executive Jed York, who pledged $1 million to combat systemic racial discrimination.

Former 49er Eric Reid, who knelt alongside Kaepernick, tweeted: “Nobody wants your money Jed. We want justice.”