St. Pauli faced a Paderborn team lurking in the deepest depths of the 2. Bundesliga. The stage was set as a frosty night in the Millerntor welcomed both sets of fans. St. Pauli having lost their last fixture against Heidenheim, were looking to recalibrate recent form. They had to prove that they deserved to be categorised as the elite few at the top of the table. They needed a win to maintain the pressure on a comfortable looking Nürnburg who were gaining a valuable lead with the Hamburg team folding under pressure. St. Pauli needed to unnerve a failing Paderborn team who would be putting a fight up in order to salvage whatever they could from the game.
After a slow start against Heidenheim on game day 25, St. Pauli were looking to kick off the game by introducing a nice pace to ease the tension. However, it was almost as if both teams were wanting to show a real intent, which was evident as neither could really settle the ball. With only a couple of minutes on the clock the ball found its way fumbling into St. Pauli’s own 18-yard box when Duballa clumsily knocked into Koc who was chasing the loose ball. A few claims were made claiming for a penalty, but a big decision almost too early on, the referee would have been a brave man to call it. A close shave from the young left back, who took a needed deep breath to calm himself following the lucky escape. He should have considered himself lucky that there wasn’t a torrent of white shirts surrounding the referee who may have been pushed to take action early on.
Surprisingly, the first goal of the game wasn’t much later from that incident as a Paderborn throw which posed no threat fell to Helenius who although inside the box had a lot to do. The ball, juggled at shoulder height by the towering Dane was flicked over the surrounding St. Pauli defence, leaving them chasing the eager forward, as he found himself now facing the goal. Still having a lot to do, Helenius took his chance and lofted a ball over the stunned Himmelmann in the net. With a mixture of individual genius and a small percentage of luck, the visitors were 1-0 up within the first 8 minutes. Not the ideal start from the team under pressure to perform.
Following the early knock back, the home team started linking up play between what looked like a rejuvenated set of forwards compared to what we saw last weekend. With the full backs using the width, it really gave a nice channel for play to be exchanged, something which St. Pauli severely lacked on their last outing. Choi instantly impressed me as a comparison to last weeks frustrated Thy, who lacked determination and showed fatigue. Choi looked sharp on his feet, chasing down anything in the final third. When the South Korean youngster had the ball, I feel he wanted to find that pass or option in order to make an impact, whether that being laying it off or playing it wide, he certainly shone for me early on.
After a moderate spell of St. Pauli possession, a chance fell for Alushi, after a smart ‘one-two’ with Dudziak, who also looked very impressive early on. Alushi found himself past Paderborn’s line of defence and with a chance of working Fernandes, the Portuguese keeper who had yet to be properly tested. However, Alushi fired, hitting the side netting, going for power over precision.
At the 25-minute mark the visitors netted their second of the game. Hornschuh drawn in on the wide right allowed a nice little gap to form which Paderborn used the most of. A ball delicately flicked over and subsequently rolled into Hartherz who found himself facing Himmelmann, only having to slot the ball either side to ensure the two goal advantage early on. Another goal, partially consisting of a great piece of play, the rest this time down to a lapse of concentration from the fairly consistent St. Pauli back line. A nicely constructed goal nonetheless.
As half time approached, it was only those two chances which separated the two sides. Paderborn enjoyed testing a young St. Pauli defence with their strong attacking options who pressed at times. Dudziak who was looking really energetic so far often lit up with promising moments, having worked well with the well-oiled midfield to create a handful of nice spells with the ball. St Pauli’s main concern was in the final third where fans would surely be asking where a goal was going to come from. The whistle was blown to signify the end of the half, the team fighting relegation going in the better of the two.
Both teams walked out from the tunnel having discussed their current situations. Each questioning their next moves. The Hamburg team needing something in order to prevent embarrassment. Paderborn, away from home, wanting to expose a nervous home team some more by potentially countering an attack from their opponents. Either way, whoever made the next move would be severely tested.
Early on in the second half, the dictator of play Rzatkowski had the opportunity to test the Paderborn defence, this time aerially. A free kick was whipped in from 40 yards, attempting to find the head of the main threat, Sobiech, who pushed forward from centre half. The tall, dominant German found himself of the ground before the ball even reached him following some form of altercation with Sebastian, the experienced defender was caught wrapping his arms around Sobiech who found himself being dragged down away from the ball. A penalty was awarded to give the home fans something to get excited about. The man pulled down was going to take it. After a few minutes to gain some composure, the 25-year-old confidently guides one in to the top right of the goal. A great finish for a centre half, a real solid foot through the ball giving the keeper no chance.
The game continued with both teams passing the ball around trying to find that space to open the pitch up. The home team won a corner with the excited fans motivating their team back in the game. The ball was cleared and ended up with Paderborn in possession but with no clear option to work anything. Within the space of a second things turned upside down for the apprehensive home fans as out wide Paderborn again found themselves running wide with Helenius lurking free, just outside of the box. Still with two St. Pauli players to get the ball past, a lot still had to be done. A wonderfully weighted ball was put on a plate for the Ex-Aston Villa centre forward who bobbled a ball towards Himmelmann who was drawn off his line. The ball just had enough on it to slip out, behind him, just having the momentum to continue its journey goal-bound. Zeireis charged back in an attempt to scramble the ball away but the spin of the ball caught him flat footed as the ball almost apologetically crawled in.
Choi was shortly after replaced by Maier, in a tactical substitution to possibly create more in the final third. Choi impressed me all game, even though he never offered much in terms of getting shots away or being that goal threat St. Pauli desperately needed, he at least had that intent to push and create. I think his footwork and ability to draw in fouls (which were plentiful on the away teams’ behalf) made it easier for Buchtmann and others who recently didn’t have a lot to work with up there.
The second St. Pauli goal arrived just after the substitution was made as Maier spotted Club Brugge Loanee Sobota lingering on Paderborn’s back line. After making the seemingly impossible reverse pass which Sobota picked up nicely, the ball was slotted past Fernandes. Celebrations were however cut short. The linesman correctly flagged for offside as the replay shows the Polish winger to be a yard or so on the wrong side. Play resumed as St. Pauli now running short of time with the score reset to 1-3.
At the 80-minute mark one of the key players for the struggling home team was replaced. Dudziak came off for Picault to see if he could make a difference. Dudziak having a much better game than what he had the week before, almost looking a different player. More touches, more energy, more desire.
Following a brief moment where neither team could make anything of the ball they had. The guests found themselves attacking once more, with a simple ball exposing the wide right of St. Pauli’s defence again, Bertels found himself in space and wanting to test the shot stopper Himmelmann. This time a really tidy finish, hit with confidence putting the game at rest. Not so much a defensive or team error, just a moment of class for Bertels who really made the most of what appeared to be almost nothing.
Picault gave the fans something to cheer about as with 5 minutes to spare. Picault using his agility as he burst past the almost untested Paderborn defence managed to flick a ball into the mixer to find Sobota’s head at the far post. The post was clipped on his first attempt, the keeper getting a firm hand to the second from 10 yards out and finally on the third a gentle roll in to the bottom right pulled one back with only minutes left. Almost all hope had already been lost.
The full backs had been running up and down all night, both Hornschuh and Duballa both pushed on which again contrasted the Heidenheim game in which St. Pauli rarely shown any promising bursts forward. They did get caught out a few times but it made an impact when the team lacked a target up front they made it easier to push and offer a more diverse attack.
In the 4 minutes added time the maestro Rzatkowski found himself 10 yards from the corner flag where he took potentially on of his teams last attacks in a decent position. He wrapped his foot around the ball with pace to really offer as much as he could with the delivery. Picault risen after leaping early and once again found himself involved as he poked the ball over the airborne keeper. The Paderborn defence will be disappointed they let the tiny Haiti-born forward beat them in the air. It would be a tense last remaining minute for the now shaky back four.
It was a tentative last 60 seconds for both teams with the visitors caught off-guard by allowing the struggling home team snatch two easily preventable goals, but at the same time it was far too little, far too late for a disappointed St. Pauli team. They needed a win from this game but it never came.
The final score being 3-4. A great game for the neutrals and for the struggling away fans who will have something to hold on to. Paderborn’s goals counted because they took their chances. Lacking a hungry goal scorer, the same can’t be said for the team currently sat in 4th. If you’re going to remain up there contending for promotion you’re going to need goals from a reliable source. It’s a case of how long can you rely on the midfield for goals? Surely a centre forward is needed to step up and take charge in order to gain the respect of the other big teams sitting firmly in the comfort of the top 3. St. Pauli not necessarily playing poorly on this occasion, more so a case of Paderborn performing on the night. Let’s hope someone will step it up and really start piling in goals before it’s too late. Hopefully we’ll see some change in the next game which is away to Sandhausen on Saturday.