Gladbach beat Cologne to move fourth

BERLIN (AFP) – Borussia Moenchengladbach beat Cologne 2-1 early yesterday to move back into the Bundesliga top four in the first game in German top-flight history to be played behind closed doors, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Marco Rose’s Gladbach sit six points behind leaders Bayern Munich and two points clear of fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen in the race for Champions League qualification.

Last weekend, German health minister Jens Spahn requested that all events in the country with more than 1,000 people be cancelled “until further notice”.

The home side, who led the table earlier in the season, took a 32nd-minute lead through Breel Embolo in the near-empty Borussia Park.

An own goal from visiting defender Jorge Mere doubled the advantage 20 minutes from time, and despite a late strike from Cologne forward Mark Uth, Gladbach held on to bounce back from last Friday’s 2-1 loss to second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

Their win was greeted by fireworks set off by around 500 fans gathered outside the stadium.

“It (the support) gives us goosebumps. We know why we play football,” Gladbach midfielder Christoph Kramer, a 2014 World Cup winner, told Sky.

“I think it’s great that so many people are gathering in the rain behind the grandstand. We’re happy to have such fans.”

Even referee Deniz Aytekin admitted it was a strange situation.

“Something was missing,” he said. “It (the virus) is scary. It has nothing to do with football. It was difficult to concentrate.”

Gladbach, who still hold an outside chance of winning a first league title since 1977, last played in the Champions League in 2016, exiting at the group stage.