Thuram brace powers Gladbach to 4-1 victory over Berlin

Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram, second left, scores his side’s second goal during the Bundesliga match against Union Berlin in Moenchengladbach, Germany on Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 31 May 2020

Thuram brace powers Gladbach to 4-1 victory over Berlin

  • The French striker takes knee in show of solidarity with protests in US

BERLIN: Borussia Moenchengladbach routed Union Berlin 4-1 on Sunday behind closed doors with French striker Marcus Thuram scoring twice and taking a knee in protest at the death of an unarmed black man in the US.

First half goals by midfielder Florian Neuhaus, who bagged Gladbach’s 3,000th goal in the Bundesliga, and Thuram put Gladbach 2-0 up at the break.

Union’s Swedish striker Sebastian Andersson pulled one back early in the second half after being left unmarked.

However, Gladbach pulled away when Thuram added his second after pressing the Union defense.

The 22-year-old French striker then took a knee on the Borussia Park turf, imitating NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

It was the latest show of Bundesliga solidarity with the current protests sweeping the US.

Schalke’s US midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband in Saturday’s defeat to Werder Bremen bearing the words “Justice for George.” 

George Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis in an arrest by a police officer who pinned him to the ground for several minutes by kneeling on his neck.

On Sunday, Alassane Plea grabbed a goal of his own for Gladbach, having set up Thuram’s first, when he fired home off his left foot on 81 minutes to beat Union goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz.

After a 3-1 defeat to Leverkusen last weekend, and a goalless draw with relegation-threatened Werder Bremen on Tuesday, this was an important win for Gladbach.

It lifted them to third in the table, but RB Leipzig can take their place if they win at Cologne on Monday.

On Saturday, reigning champions Bayern Munich opened a 10-point lead with a 5-0 thrashing of Fortuna Duesseldorf with the league’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski netting twice.

 

Hungarian fans return to stadiums after lockdown

Fans returned to Hungarian football stadia at the weekend after a two-month break due to the coronavirus, a first in Europe where other leagues have resumed behind closed doors.

The Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) decided Thursday to allow clubs let fans in for the first time since March on condition that every second row in stadia remains empty, and that only every fourth seat is occupied.

Outside the Diosgyor club stadium in the northeastern city of Miskolc Saturday before its game with Mezokovesd their supporters said they were glad to be back and meet fellow fans again.

“We’ll keep the rules as there could be closed-doors games again if we screw up,” said Richard Kovacs, 36.

Some 2,255 spectators attended the game, one of six to take place in Hungary at the weekend, with the stands speckled with scattered fans.

“The virus hasn’t disappeared so we must keep the distance,” said 18-year-old student Csaba Gasparics wearing a Diosgyor facemask.

“We are only worried if we win or loses, not about the epidemic,” said Gabor Lengyel, 41.

Apart from in Budapest where Hungary’s biggest club Ferencvaros has a large fan base, typical crowds are small with a nationwide average last season of around 3,000.

“We were already maintaining social distancing in the stadiums very well,” one web user joked after the MLSZ announcement.

Other European countries that have relaunched their leagues in May, or are about to do so, are playing behind closed doors.

Hungary, which has a population of 9.8 million, had by Sunday recorded 3,876 cases and 526 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions have gradually been eased across the country and Budapest fully reopened its bars and restaurants on the weekend.

 


F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, were missed.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.