It was the middle of the night, around 3 in the morning, by the time the Borussia Dortmund team were back in Germany. The travelling party touched down in Paderborn, before boarding the bus to Dortmund. The general mood on the long journey home was split between two contrasting feelings: satisfaction with the performance on the one hand and a certain level of disappointment with the outcome on the other.
A 2-1 loss at Manchester City. Few were expecting this (close) result prior to the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against the title favourites. Not only the result, but also the way they performed, has ensured the dream of a place in the semi-finals remains very much alive: it's all still to play for!
"Had we drawn 1-1, we would be heading through at kick-off. That's always a great position to be in in knockout ties. As it is, we need to score one," said Mats Hummels with regard to next Wednesday's return leg at Signal Iduna Park.
"We're very happy with the performance that we produced. After all, we're talking about an away match against Manchester City in a Champions League quarter-final," declared coach Edin Terzic, whose tactical plays all paid off: "We didn't look so good in one or two situations, and you get punished for that at this level."
Marco Reus scored in the 84th minute to cancel out the opener gifted to Kevin De Bruyne in the 19th minute. But Emre Can, whose misplaced pass in midfield led to that goal, made amends by initiating the move for the equaliser. Jude Bellingham then picked out Erling Haaland, whose pass teed up the BVB captain to score in the very stadium in which he netted the first of his 18 Champions League goals back in October 2012. Though Haaland failed to find the net for the first time in the Champions League this season, he continues to top the scoring charts – and, as the only BVB player a booking away from a suspension prior to kick-off, avoided the yellow card that would have ruled him out of the return leg.
"When you concede a goal shortly before the end, one that you often see from them, it is "very annoying", said Terzic of the goal that decided the game in the 90th minute: "We'd spoken about it before, but unfortunately we couldn't defend it. It's annoying that we came out of the game with a narrow defeat rather than a draw. But there are a lot of positive things to take into the game in eight days' time."
"We showed the commitment we ideally want to be showing every three days"
In that return fixture, his team will be looking to find the spaces that opened up yesterday. Terzic said: "We now have a firm belief that we can reach the next round." But before then, the team are in Stuttgart on Saturday and need to "show these things again". Courage, passion, determination, defending as a unit.
"We showed the commitment we ideally want to be showing every three days," said Mats Hummels, whose clear analysis went beyond this individual game: "The issue for us is not one of taking steps forward, but rather of staying forward and at the top in terms of commitment, concentration and seriousness. We need to show that we can cut it not only on the very biggest stage, but also on Saturday against Frankfurt and this Saturday in Stuttgart."