53 min: Sancho has been listless; his head drops as Brandt plays as pass for him. Another chance will surely come, though.
52 min: How long, though, can Hertha keep this up? They nearly conceded their first when at last Dortmund create something. Hakimi plays across goal, and Guerreiro gets it back into Sancho’s path. The Englishman misses, and Guereirro’s reaction reflects what a bad miss it was.
49 min: Berlin again back in numbers. Bruno Labbadia’s plan does not require much subterfuge to work out.
47 min: Dortmund start with vigour. Brandt’s flick is lovely but Sancho is stopped in his tracks. Sancho gets another chance to have a run but then loses the ball. His attempt to win it back is, shall we say, less than vigorous.
46 min: We are back underway. A half-time sub for Hertha. Dodi Lukebakio is replaced by the youngster Jessic Ngankam.
Peter Oh’s in: “Hi John, I think it’s a missed opportunity that the Bundesliga isn’t inviting musicians to set up opposite the camera to play a live soundtrack to matches. Kind of like a Cirque du Soleil performance or an opera.”
That might contravene social distancing laws in itself, perhaps.
Half-time Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Hertha Berlin
Hertha have been excellent in terms of their organisation, holding Dortmund at bay and making them feed off scraps. There has been little for the virtual crowd to get noisy about.
44 min: Hertha have a rare spell of possession. They then cede the ball, only to step back in numbers and stop Dortmund’s attempt to create something.
42 min: Hazard goes down as if hurt and the virtual crowd whistles when the referee does not award a foul. The sound mixer in the stadium is finding his stride now. Could this be used for more nefarious means? Are piped-in crowds allowed to barrack the referee?
39 min: The noise of exasperated BvB coaches and players is drowning out the virtual Yellow Wall soundtrack. To applause, Hakimi’s inside pass finds Sancho whose pirouette makes him space but does not gain him full control. Sancho seems to have swapped wings.
38 min: Guerreiro makes a right hash of a free-kick from the edge of the box. Dortmund have been wasteful on dead balls.
36 min: Dortmund have gone a bit easy oasy here, as if they have run out of ideas against Hertha’s organisation. Their flow is much reduced. The ball finds its way to Witzel but the ball is blocked, which is becoming a common theme.
34 min: Thomas Delaney has been busy, and it is his haring around that sets up the chance for Sancho to make a run. Brandt supplies a neat pass but the Englishman cannot get past that packed Hertha defence.
32 min: Hertha break. Grujic again takes too much time over the ball which is not a good sign for onlooking Liverpool fans, and Ibisevic has too little space to make anything of it.
31 min: The free-kick is drifted in by Guerreiro but it goes straight to the Berlin keeper. Hertha have had to make a change. Javairo Dilrosun, who looked to be carrying an injury, makes way for Alexander Esswein, whose physique may well test the Dortmund defence.
29 min: The Yellow Wall roars on its heroes from behind the speakers. Brandt, with a piece of superb skill, wins a free-kick. There are a few contenders to take it.
27 min: Boyata, once of Manchester City and Celtic, has been solid for Hertha in defence and it is he who steps out to stop Brandt turning. It’s one-way traffic at the moment but it’s getting snarled up.
25 min: Berlin keeper Jarstein is forced into a mistake as he hacks out of play. Dortmund are pushing hard and pressing up the field.
23 min: This time, the often excellent Brandt fires in a shot. Chances beginning to pile up for BvB.
21 min: Chance for Hazard and one he should have done far better with. The ball drifted across to the right-hand post and he skewed his shot.
19 min: There was a glimmer of a chance for Hertha but then Grujic dallied and Dortmund broke away. Sancho was really motoring but the danger is cleared. Up in the stand, Matthias Sammer sits, masked up, and wrapped up warm.
18 min: As Can shepherds the ball back after cutting off some danger from Hertha, the fake crowd gives him a clap.
17 min: Sancho wins a corner, which is taken and evades everyone, with Axel Witzel failing to keep the ball in at the other end.
15 min: Can lopes out of defence before Brandt takes up the cudgels. Sancho is stopped in his tracks and Hertha stage a counter that is stopped by Can, by now returned to his defensive detail for the day.
13 min: Some of the signs of why Hertha have been on such a good run are visible. They have looked solid and organised in defence.
12 min: Sancho, looking nice and neat and shorn, is on the left though most of Dortmund’s football so far has come down the right.
10 min: Hazard and Hakimi link – and the fake crowd seemed to raise its hackles – before Hakimi smashes the ball into the side-netting. If you are not looking up – and to betray a trade secret, you do a lot of looking down when doing the MBM or match report – then it sounds like your common and garden Bundesliga.
Football with fake fans is not nothing.
7 min: Thorgan Hazard is playing as the central forward in the absence of Haaland. And here comes the crowd noise. It’s reassuring, soothing. It almost feels real as if football as we knew and loved it is back.
4 min: While the game takes its shape, here’s the report from Bayern’s latest deluge of goals.
3 min: In terms of the game, Dortmund have begun on the front foot. This looks to be a 3-4-3 formation, rather than the advertised 4-3-3. Emre Can has stepped back into defence in place of Hummels. He’s always been a versatile player.
1 min: About this enhanced audio: I can just hear the throb of the Signal Iduna electrics rather than a recording of the absent Yellow Wall. The red button is not offering other options. Hmm.
Over in the UK, we are listening in enhanced audio, which means piped-in crowd noise. And on balance, that’s been better than the sound of players’ voices rattling around the stadium.
Before the game can begin, the teams all take a knee, a protest approved by the authorities.
The teams are already in the tunnel, and the sound of Van Halen’s Jump signals that we are just about ready to roll.
Dortmund have a large absentee list, with Mahmoud Dahoud, Marco Reus, Nico Schulz and Dan-Axel Zagadou and Erling Haaland injured and Mats Hummels suspended, plus Mario Götze is on paternity leave.
Those teams in analogue
Borussia Dortmund (4-3-3): Burki; Hakimi, Piszczek, Akanji, Guerreiro; Delaney, Can, Witsel; Sancho, Hazard, Brandt
Hertha Berlin (4-2-3-1): Jarstein; Pekarik, Boyata, Torunarigha, Mittelstadt; Skjelbred, Grujic; Lukebakio, Darida, Dilrosun; Ibisevic
Today’s Bundesliga action …
- Bayer Leverkusen 2-4 Bayern Munich
- Eintracht Frankfurt 0-2 Mainz
- Fortuna Dusseldorf 2-2 Hoffenheim
- RB Leipzig 1-1 Paderborn
The teams via ever more flashy social media
There was a glimmer of hope offered to Dortmund when Bayer Leverkusen took an lead against Bayern, and with piped-in crowd noise to boot, only for normal service to be resumed. Being best of the rest is not nearly good enough for BvB, who have spent serious money on their team and have a wealth of talent that is the envy of the continent’s elite. All they can do is try and keep the pressure on. Lucien Favre is hoping for a miracle slip from Bayern that looks unlikely to come and there are gathering doubts about his future. The complaint that he is not the type of manager who is suited to Dortmund, where memories are still relatively fresh of Jürgen Klopp.
Erling Haaland has been an injury doubt but his teammates were in the goals last week without him when winning 6-1 at Paderborn. Only Bayern have kept them out since Das Reboot of the Bundesliga began last month.
Ninth-placed Hertha have done well since the restart, having been unbeaten in four, a sequence that includes a last-gasp draw with RB Leipzig and a 4-0 derby defeat of Union Berlin, and should present quite a test.
Kick-off is at 5.30 pm, UK time. Join me.