Ahead of the most important game of Hoffenheim’s season, Markus Gisdol made four changes to his starting eleven. Jannik Vestergaard returned to the centre of defence and Fabian Johnson, Eugen Polanski and Patrick Ochs were also involved from the start.
This was it. Hoffenheim’s last chance at Bundesliga survival and they knew that against one of this year’s Champions League finalists, they would have to produce one of their best displays. Sadly, after a somewhat comforting opening five minutes, Dortmund pounced and took a potentially devastating lead. Robert Lewandowski was well placed to tap home after Casteels had spilled Jakub Blaszczykowski’s header.
Hoffenheim had said before the game they were not focused on results elsewhere and their focus was solely on trying to find a way back into the encounter in Dortmund. Part of that was keeping their goal intact and not conceding again. Koen Casteels parried from Blaszczykowski after the Pole’s mazy run before clinging onto the ball at the second time of asking. Hoffenheim searched for more possession, and this more control, but Dortmund were making things extremely difficult for their visitors.
Gisdol’s men were able to create small openings on the break but no sooner had they done so and Dortmund closed them down and prevented them from testing Roman Weidenfeller. Shortly before the 40-minute mark, and Hoffenheim did get the chance to test Dortmund’s goalkeeper but Roberto Firmino’s effort was straight at Weidenfeller. It was a chance missed for the visitors but nevertheless they remained only one goal behind at half time.
With a great task ahead of them, Hoffenheim tried desperately to get themselves back in the game and fashion out a few chances. Sadly, it was the hosts who continued to look the more likely to score and it took a fantastic fingertip save from Casteels to deny a curling effort from Gündogan from going in. Markus Gisdol was forced to make an attacking change and knowing his side needed two goals to survive, he brought on the in-form Sven Schipplock.
The substitute managed to test Weidenfeller but only from the angle and with less power than the striker would have wanted. Moments after, Casteels made his second outstanding save of the afternoon to deny Kehl from close range and keep Hoffenheim in the game. With the final quarter of an hour ticking over, Hoffenheim finally started to get a bit more control in the game. With that came a lifeline after Mats Hummels fouled Kevin Volland in the area and Sejad Salihovic scored the resulting penalty.
With ten minutes to go and Hoffenheim with a renewed sense of energy, Gisdol’s men were sensationally awarded another penalty after Weidenfeller brought down Schipplock. The drama continued as Weidenfeller saw red for his foul leaving Dortmund with no other option, having made all of three of their substitutions, to put an outfield player in goal (Kevin Großkreutz). Salihovic stepped up once more and made no mistake the second time either, smashing the ball down the centre of the goal to turn the game on its head.
Emotions were high as the game ticked over into its dying stages. A deep free-kick from the home side saw every Dortmund player, including Großkreutz, pile into the area. Hoffenheim half cleared it but Marcel Schmelzer fired a long-range, low effort into the bottom corner via a deflection from Robert Lewandowski. It looked to be the final twist to the season but incredibly there was more to come. After initially giving the goal, the officials changed their mind and correctly ruled the goal out for offside. With hardly any time left, Hoffenheim held out to win. A sensational afternoon for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim was made complete as the combination of their win and results from elsewhere meant that from a seemingly impossible position, Hoffenheim reached the relegation play-off spot. Two games against 1. FC Kaiserslautern lie ahead for Gisdol’s men and surely after their incredible win in Dortmund, they will be favourites to keep their place in the top flight.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Piszczek (69’ Schieber), Subotic, Hummels (78’ Santana), Schmelzer – S. Bender (60’ Kehl), Gündogan – Blaszczykowski, Reus, Großkreutz - Lewandowski
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: Casteels – Beck, Abraham, Vestergaard, Johnson – Polanski, Rudy (46’ Szarka) – Ochs (58’ Schipplock), Salihovic, Volland – Roberto Firmino (86’ Süle)
Goals: 1-0 Lewandowski (6’), 1-1 Salihovic (77’ pen.), 1-2 Salihovic (82’ pen.)
Yellow cards: Reus – Rudy, Vestergaard, Schipplock, Firmino
Red card: Weidenfeller
Referee: Dr. Jochen Drees