Fortunately for Borussia Dortmund, there was a only a slight echo of last season's Matchday 17 defeat to SV Werder Bremen in their final competitive outing of the calendar year against 1. FC Köln on Saturday afternoon.
The 2-1 scoreline was the same, but that is where the similarities end. While BVB finished the 2014/15 Hinrunde in the relegation zone, they go into the new year in second place, eight points behind Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München.
'A team of winners'
Statistically, 38 points from 17 matches represents Dortmund's most successful Hinrunde since the title-winning season of 2010/11, and their fourth best overall. Moreover, they have already scored as many goals (a league-high 47) as they managed over the course of the whole of last season and, in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, boast the current campaign's top goalscorer (18 goals).
Even Thomas Tuchel, despite tasting defeat for the third time in the Bundesliga since replacing Jürgen Klopp as BVB head coach last summer, is focusing on the positives. "Defeats in Köln are all part of growing up together," he told club website www.bvb.de. "All in all, we're really happy with how we've developed on a day-to-day basis. We all know how important daily training sessions are. They make us into a team of winners. Now we've all earned a break, me included."
'We weren't fresh enough'
Dortmund's record under Tuchel speaks for itself. Die Schwarz-Gelben have battled their way through a gruelling 30-match schedule in all competitions, registering 22 wins, as well as progressing to the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 and the last eight of the DFB Cup. Hardly a surprise, then, that those tired legs caught up with them in Cologne.
"Mentally and physically, we weren't fresh enough," admitted Tuchel after watching his side surrender a one-goal lead in the final seven minutes of the encounter at the RheinEnergieSTADION. "We sent out the wrong signals in the period after we took the lead. We didn’t recognise the opportunities when it was possible to kill the game off. We should have gone 2-0 up, but didn’t."
'A great Hinrunde'
Saturday's setback in the Domstadt aside, Dortmund can look back on 2015 with pride rather than disappointment. BVB rallied at the turn of the year to climb out of the relegation zone, eventually qualifying for the Europa League via the play-offs after finishing seventh in the Bundesliga, and reached the DFB Cup final. Now they are challenging for honours on all three fronts.
"It's been a great Hinrunde for us, even if today's result detracts from that somewhat," affirmed Dortmund captain Mats Hummels on his way out of the stadium. Given the club's about-turn in fortunes, however, perhaps 'remarkable' would be a more apposite description.
Tobias Gonscherowski/ Christopher Mayer-Lodge