Fans in Germany may have had longer to wait for the resumption of action than those in Europe's other 'big five' leagues but their patience was rewarded in a thrilling Bundesliga weekend.
It had it all: leaders and favourites FC Bayern München suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in Friday night's curtain-raiser, FC Schalke 04 ground out an important 3-1 win against VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund seized the opportunity on Sunday by triumphing 5-1 at Hamburger SV. Now Bayern, Schalke and reigning champions Dortmund are level, with Mönchengladbach only a point adrift.
After a shaky start, Dortmund have now not lost a domestic game since 18 September and after their latest success, midfielder Sven Bender said: "We played a very, very good match today and deservedly left the pitch as winners. We were able to do almost everything we had planned before the match out there. But we had to give our all to win by such a big margin."
Coach Jürgen Klopp, who was without the pivotal Mario Götze, added: "Götze is important but not irreplaceable.
The lads are playing our football and do so without mercy."
For Bayern, the weekend results rubbed salt into the wounds of their own loss, unexpected even though they also were defeated 1-0 at home by Mönchengladbach in the first fixture of the season. "I am sorry, my mistake paved the way to our defeat – that's of course a bitter feeling," said a downcast Manuel Neuer, whose slip allowed Gladbach to open the scoring on 11 minutes.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who had previously maintained that his side had undergone the best training camp during his entire career as a coach, added: "It is hard to come back against such a well-organised side. Today, we were not capable of asserting ourselves in the decisive moments."
Mönchengladbach certainly did assert themselves and now can a side who needed to win a relegation play-off last year maintain a title challenge? "
Our goal remains to think from game to game and fight for every point," said a cautious Lucien Favre.
Schalke have not captured the headlines like Dortmund but continue to go about their business efficiently, and almost by stealth are in a strong position to finally capture a Bundesliga crown. "I have said that you only know after a couple of games where you really stand," said coach Huub Stevens. "Currently I only know that we have as many points as Bayern. But having dreams is beautiful."
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