Review: St. Pauli 2 – 1 Union Berlin

It was a game that for the most part was reminiscent of the recent home defeats that St. Pauli have suffered. With only 4 home wins from 11 games prior to this, St. Pauli had found their home form was the main stumbling block in their quest to reach the Bundesliga. In recent home games St. Pauli have struggled to break down teams who sit back at the Millerntor, preferring to face teams who allow them space from which to counter attack. For much of this game, it followed the same pattern – but with a couple of minor differences. Union Berlin were undoubtedly the better side, and will feel aggrieved not to have taken at least a point back to the capital, but if football matches were always decided in favour of those who deserved them it’d be a bit boring, wouldn’t it?

In recent home games St. Pauli have been guilty of throwing too many men forward in the hope of finding a goal, but they rarely had the chance to do so as Union Berlin dominated the opening exchanges and but for Tschauner would have gone into half time with a lead. But as coach Roland Vrabec eluded to in his pre-match press conference a couple of days ago, it was helpful that Union were not just here to sit back and spoil the Millerntor party. Union sensed they could win it, and they should have done. On another day, Union could have won by two or three. But the differences between this performance were subtle, but effective. The fullbacks chose when to move forward, leaving less space from which Union could break. The central defenders were strong and very rarely caught out of position, and when they were they could rely on the ever-dependable Tschauner in goal – who was undoubtedly man of the match yet again this season.

After a first half that ebbed and flowed as each team tried to break the deadlock, the second half belonged entirely to the away side. Union were no longer just knocking on Tschauner’s front door, they were attempting to kick it down. Eventually, the door fell in typical St. Pauli fashion – conceding from a corner. Tschauner did magnificently to save the initial header, but could do little about the follow-up from Terrode who reacted quicker than the observing defenders.

It was a deserved lead, and one that made you wonder how St. Pauli would get back into the game. But the answer was emphatically answered by an unusual, yet dependable, source. Sebastian Schachten found himself in the area and controlled a clearance from a set-piece, swivelled with his back to goal like a centre forward and with his weaker foot dispatched the ball into the back of the net.

The introduction of Bartels for Kringe had given St. Pauli more attacking intent, but it was still the away side who were dominating possession and creating the better chances. St. Pauli weren’t without chances though, as left-back Halstenberg struck a free-kick from all of 40 yards which crashed against the post then John Verhoek used his strength to create room in the box, but his shot was straight at the keeper who parried it away. At the other end, Tschauner was equal to everything that Union Berlin could throw at him – most notably when Mattuschka, so often the thorn in St. Pauli’s side, hit a dipping shot that Tschauner somehow managed to get his fingertips to and push it onto the bar.

The game was decided by a clinical counter attacking move – something which St. Pauli have lacked all too often at home this season. Substitute Maier linked up well with Halstenberg down the left, Maier played Halstenberg down the line with a great pass, Halstenberg cut it back to the near post and Bartels looped his shot over the goalkeeper into the far corner of the net with just a minute to go. St. Pauli had clinched just their 5th home win of the season, a run of form which must be improved upon if they are going to seriously challenge for promotion to the Bundesliga.

It wasn’t deserved in so much that they hadn’t dominated possession, hadn’t had the most chances and hadn’t looked like the better team. But St. Pauli fought, they were brave and when they needed to they rode their luck against a quality opponent. Some would say that’s the mentality of a winning side.