The hype ahead of Jürgen Klopp's return to his former workplace had been enormous but the Liverpool boss had insisted it would be "all about the football" on the night. Was he true to his word?
For a moment immediately after the final whistle, it seemed like old times, asJürgen Klopp
strolled out onto the pitch. Beaming, as he often does, he went over to the BVB players, hugging one after another, trading a kind word two, patting them on their shoulders or heads - as if this were still his team. Had he been wearing a different training jacket, you could have been forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed.
"I was simply happy to be able to hug the lads," Klopp said after the game and there was nothing fake about the joy that he conveyed. Before leaving the pitch, he directed a few claps of appreciation to the Dortmund supporters, who still hold him dear to their hearts. He may have left the club last summer, but something of him seems to have remained.
On Thursday evening though, he returned not as an old friend, but as an opponent. The greeting from stadium announcer, Norbert Dickel was noticeably understated, while the applause from the Dortmund fans, which was respectful but not exuberant, was drowned out by the cheering of the Liverpool supporters.
"It was a very respectful, but quiet applause, it was completely appropriate" Klopp commented afterwards, in the sober manner in which he had promised to conduct himself on this evening. Anyone who had expected an evening of high emotions would be disappointed.
'All about the football'
Prior to the game, Klopp had promised this evening would be "all about the football." True to his word, when the opening whistle was blown in front of nearly 66,000 spectators, Klopp was all business. For large parts of the game he stood with arms crossed in his coaching zone, showing little in the way of movement or outward displays of emotion.
There were times where he did express his feelings though, for example when he clapped after his team created its first chance - before folding his arms again. In the 18th minute, he looked taken aback as members of his former team swept through his current charges like they were poles on a slalom ski course. Erik Durm took a crack from a promising position but his effort was blocked at the last moment. The fans cheered on the daring attacking play of their BVB while Jürgen Klopp could only shake his head. His 'reds' looked as toothless, emotionless and devoid of ideas as their coach.
After this period of Dortmund pressure failed to produce a breakthrough, the match lost its flow, with lots of minor fouls and stoppages in play. But then Liverpool launched a counter attack and Mats Hummels failed in a battle to head the ball clear. Lukas Piszczeck made only a half-hearted attempt to get to the ball, allowing Liverpool striker Divock Origi to make the score 1-0 in the 36th minute.
Klopp pulled his hands out of his pocket and celebrated like he used to in his Dortmund days - but in a noticeably more understated fashion. Klopp continued to behave respectfully - even as his team created their next big scoring chance. This time Origi failed to beat Roman Weidenfeller. When the halftime whistle was blown, Klopp sprinted towards the dressing room and a spot of video analysis.
Whatever he watched didn't seem to help his side. Three minutes after the re-start, Hummels headed home to level the score at 1-1. Klopp turned away from the pitch with his arms folded and a serious expression on his face. His body language didn't even change when shortly afterwards his charges pinned the Dortmund defense back and had several decent attempts on goal. Weidenfeller had a good night, stopping everything that was thrown at him. It was he alone who prevented Klopp's players from scoring a second.
The game opened up and became an end to end affair. Both sides had chances but neither had the upper hand. - the kind of situation where a coach earns his money. Klopp paced up and down, wildly gesturing towards his players - just like his successor at Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel. While the Dortmund coach urged his players forward, Klopp ordered his charges to defend,apparently satisfied with a 1-1 draw.
Caution wasn't on the minds of the home side who repeatedly launched attacks, which went unrewarded. The Liverpool back line was stronger in the air and snuffed out every Dortmund move.
In the 86th minute, Klopp celebrated exuberantly for the first time, not because of a goal, but because of a well-timed tackle. It was the joy of a coach whose tactics are working.
"That we are where we are today is really quite good, strong performance," the Liverpool coach said afterwards, knowing that the result puts his team in a good position to advance when they play the return leg at Anfield next week.
At the press conference, Klopp was professional, analyzing the match in a businesslike fashion, with no trace of sentimentality. His voice was sonorous and his English much better than it used to be. Klopp has arrived at Liverpool. He praised his players and, as expected,refused to be pushed into the role of favorite for the second leg at Anfield Road. "It's 50-50," he said. Then he gets up, hugs a couple of old friends and disappears into the catacombs of the Westfalen stadium - just like he did for seven years.