Sinsheim – "I saw a lot of things that I disliked, things I’d never seen from my team before," remarked a disgruntled Jürgen Klopp in spite of Borussia Dortmund’s win at 1899 Hoffenheim on Matchday 17.
Such severe criticism has seldom been heard in reference to Dortmund since Klopp's appointment in 2008, but after a lacklustre first-half performance in Sinsheim, it took some choice words from the colourful coach during the interval for the defending Bundesliga champions to rouse themselves after it and eventually secure a 3-1 success.
"Hoffenheim would have won the game without a doubt if we'd kept playing like we did in the first half," Klopp expanded. Indeed, Sunday's hosts - on a five-game losing streak - proved more than a match for the Yellow-Blacks during the opening 45. Even after a great strike from Mario Götze had opened the scoring, the hosts deservedly got back into the game through Sven Schipplock before Dortmund’s quality told in the second period as Kevin Großkreutz and Robert Lewandowski sealed the points.
Yet Klopp’s words certainly weren't hot air. Dortmund's defending looked worryingly unstable before the break and, though the result was the right one in the end, their slackness at the back was undoubtedly cause for concern. The former Mainz boss did reserve praise for his team's character, however: "We dug ourselves out of trouble."
Sign of a good team
"We've certainly had better games this season in which we weren't rewarded - I much prefer today's scenario," said Klopp, with some justification in view of the previous week's unfortunate 3-2 defeat at home to VfL Wolfsburg. Marco Reus echoed that sentiment, pointing out: "We didn't play well in the first half, but showed just how dangerous we can be in the second."
Winning despite playing poorly is of course a hallmark of any successful team. There may have been shortcomings in their performance, but three points to end the calendar year were just what the doctor ordered for BVB after three games without a win - especially in the absence of key players such as captain Sebastian Kehl, Sven Bender and Marcel Schmelzer .
Once more unto the breach
Klopp's mood lifted somewhat as he analysed the state of the Bundesliga table, where Dortmund now sit in third place. "Those three points help us tremendously," he explained, highlighting that his side's current 30-point haul is only four fewer than they had at this stage last season - which of course ended in title glory. Add to that their mesmerising displays in Europe and the picture is altogether brighter. "There are still 51 points to play for," smiled Klopp confidently.
Before that, however, the Yellow-Blacks have one final test ahead of them in 2012 - at home to Hannover 96 in the DFB Cup on Wednesday. "We'll have to give it everything again," Klopp warned: "And we'll certainly have to defend better than against Hoffenheim if we want to progress."
Tobias Schächter reporting from Sinsheim