Gladbach beats Cologne as German soccer closes doors to fans


MONCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) — Borussia Monchengladbach beat Cologne 2-1 on Wednesday in the Bundesliga’s first game held without fans amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Players’ shouts echoed around the Borussia Park as a passionate local rivalry played out with only a few dozen people watching.

Before the game, two Gladbach fans dressed as ghosts protested at the entrance to the stadium, holding a banner reading ”Ghost match – we want in.”

A large group of fans gathered outside the stadium and let off fireworks at the final whistle to celebrate Gladbach’s win. The Gladbach team and staff climbed the stands to an open concourse where the fans could see them.

Breel Embolo put Gladbach ahead with his first goal since December after charging onto a layoff pass from Patrick Herrmann. He could also claim the credit for the second goal when Cologne defender Jorge Mere poked Embolo’s cross into his own net.

A rare mistake from Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer allowed Cologne back into the game. Sommer slipped while clearing the ball and delivered it straight to Mark Uth, who scored his fourth goal in six league games. Uth had a chance to level the score in stoppage time but volleyed straight at Sommer.

The win put Gladbach back into the Champions League places, overtaking Bayer Leverkusen for fourth. It is six points off leader Bayern Munich. Cologne is 10th.

All Bundesliga games scheduled for this weekend will be played without spectators with the possible exception of Augsburg’s game against Wolfsburg on Sunday.

Most clubs followed government recommendations not to host events with more than 1,000 people in attendance to prevent the spread of the virus.

Union Berlin wanted to host Bayern Munich on Saturday with fans in the stadium. Union initially said local officials had approved, but the club backed down Wednesday after district and city politicians sharply criticized the move.

Midweek fixtures are rare in German soccer. The game was originally scheduled for Feb. 9 but postponed when stormy weather threatened to make travel for fans dangerous.

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