Hoffenheim needed nothing less than a win to save themselves, but Robert Lewandowski's 24th goal of the campaign left them staring down the barrel after just six minutes. However, two penalties in the space of four second-half minutes, converted by Sejad Salihovic, turned the game around and ensured the Sinsheim outfit finish the season in 16th place, ahead of Fortuna Düssledorf, who were relegated.
Markus Gisdol’s side trailed relegation rivals Düsseldorf and FC Augsburg by two points going into the game, but any chance of victory suffered a blow when Dortmund took an early lead. Marcel Schmelzer was given acres of room to cross from the left and Lewandowski was on hand to tap in after Jakub Blaszczykowski’s header ricocheted into his path.
Jürgen Klopp’s men were dominating possession and their tenacious approach off the ball prevented Hoffenheim from even getting close to the BVB goal. It was Dortmund that looked the more likely to add to the score, and they almost succeeded when Blaszczykowski’s drilled shot was held by Koen Casteels.
News then came through that Düsseldorf had fallen behind in Hanover, and it seemed to give the away side an extra spring in their step. Shortly before half-time came their best opportunity of the match, but Salihovic was thwarted by a sprawling save from Roman Weidenfeller after a delightful passing move.
Dortmund then came close to doubling the lead either side of the half-time break, as first a Lewandowski effort was deflected clear at point-blank range and then Ilkay Gündogan struck the crossbar. Sebastian Kehl was denied by Casteels as the Yellow Blacks piled on the pressure.
Klopp’s men were by far the better team, but as long as there was just one goal in it, Hoffenheim remained a threat. The introduction of substitute Sven Schipplock, and news that Düsseldorf had conceded a second against Hannover 96, encouraged more belief in the away side’s play, and after Mats Hummels' rash tackle on Kevin Volland, Salihovic stepped up to crash in an equaliser from the penalty spot.
Hoffenheim’s tails were now up and what followed soon afterwards was a scene so dramatic, the like of it may never be witnessed in the Bundesliga again. Schipplock burst into the box to round Weidenfeller and was felled, resulting in a second penalty for Hoffenheim and a red card for the BVB stopper. Salihovic thumped the spot-kick home to put his side into a 2-1 lead against stand-in custodian Kevin Großkreutz and suddenly Hoffenheim had gone above Fortuna into the relegation play-off place, with the prospect of safety looming.
Drama like nowhere else
In a final twist, Marcel Schmelzer then thought he had equalised to save Düsseldorf, but the linesman’s flag was raised and the goal that would have relegated Hoffenheim was chalked off.
Gisdol’s men now live to fight another day and must now prepare for two games against Lautern to potentially prolong their five-year stay in the German top flight.
Line-ups and statistics