Sinsheim - "A win wouldn't have been undeserved, but we could have lost the match too." Jürgen Klopp was succinct in his assessment of Borussia Dortmund's 2-2 draw with 1899 Hoffenheim on Matchday 16.
Few would disagree with Klopp's analysis: Goals from Sven Schipplock and Kevin Volland had given the hosts a two-goal lead at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, leaving BVB on the brink of a fourth defeat in five Bundesliga matches. However, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lukasz Piszczek provided the heroics with goals either side of half-time to ensure that wasn't the case.
Having fought their way back into the match, Dortmund could so easily have left Sinsheim with all three points. Henrikh Mkhitaryan's effort from the edge of the area whistled over the bar, before the same player dragged his shot wide from a much more promising position moments later. Robert Lewandowski almost won it for the visitors in the closing stages, but his shot came back off the post after squirming under goalkeeper Jens Grahl.
As a result it was once again BVB's profligacy in front of goal that Klopp lamented after the final whistle. "We just can't seem to put away our chances," said the 46-year-old. "We could have won 7-3! That's got to be the next step in our development - to remain calm and composed when presented with goalscoring opportunities, even when the pressure's on and our opponents are making life difficult for us."
As for Dortmund's players, their satisfaction at fighting back from two-goals down was also tinged with a sense of disappointment at failing to complete the turnaround. "We showed fantastic spirit, but I can't be entirely happy" said Poland international Jakub Blaszczykowski. "We did so well to come back but, all things considered, we should have won the game."
"I think we played a lot better in the second half than we did in the first," said Australian goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak, who was given a rare start by Klopp on Saturday. "It's good that we've stayed in the top three of course, but we have to look at ourselves. If we pick up our points, we don't have to worry about what the teams around us are doing."
"We must improve"
Dortmund remain in third following the draw in Sinsheim - level on points with Borussia Mönchengladbach - and Klopp is fully aware his team have to raise their game if they are to keep pace with the likes of Leverkusen and Herbstmeister FC Bayern München.
"It's always going to be difficult. Many teams regard their games with Borussia Dortmund as the biggest of the season," he said. "There's Bayern too, of course, but there aren't many teams who can beat them." With the Bavarians away in Morocco on FIFA World Club Cup duty, BVB know nothing less than a win will do against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 17. Klopp, for one, hasn't given up hope of catching Pep Guardiola's team in the title race. After all: "Being top of the league is a lot cooler."