CONTEH’S DEBUT GOAL ONLY ENOUGH FOR A POINT AT BIELEFELD
Tom from St Pauli South West casts his eye over an honours-even opener for the Boys in Brown…
1. SPIELTAG offered St. Pauli a visit the Bielefelder Alm to battle out against Arminia Bielefeld, opening their 2019/2020 campaign. The visitors looked like they may have pulled-off the ultimate ‘smash-and-grab’ until a 90th minute goal from Manuel Prietl allowed the home fans to finally exhale, following a long, strenuous second-half. Christian Conteh impressed on his debut for the first-team, grabbing a special goal on the 32nd minute. To say that not much divided the two teams would be untrue, statistically the hosts were far the more dominant team with a handful of clear chances to take all three points throughout the match.
St. Pauli lined up with Marc Hornschuh making his first appearance since September 2017, a surprising addition to the squad, sitting just in front of the two centre-halves. With injury plaguing the squad, a rather makeshift starting eleven was present. 22-year-old Nicklas Hoffman replaced Hornschuh with 30 minutes to go, another player making his first senior appearance for the club. The call-up of Hoffman questionable only due to his lack of experience at such a hard-pressed stage in the game. With Bielefeld pushing for the equaliser it was becoming all too visible that St. Pauli were going to have to try and hold onto their narrow one goal advantage. Fabian Klos spent all night using his build in the box, straining against the experienced Christopher Avevor, whilst partnered with Marvin Knoll, who would regularly feature further forward. Bielefeld, the more physical of the two sides weren’t aiming to play beautiful football, with Klos being the target for anything thrown into the box. At the end it was a headed goal which took two points away from their guests who were lucky to not have been behind. VAR was called into play prior to that equaliser, with 15 minutes left on the clock Buballa appeared to have handled the ball in the box, this was reversed when the referee walked over to the small screen on the sideline. Reinhold Yabo also had an opportunity early in the second-half, his effort hitting the underside of the bar. The chances piled up for Bielefeld, who surely felt like they had enough opportunity to come out of this game with more than a point, they weren’t clinical enough and didn’t punish a sloppy St. Pauli.
So, what can we take from this St. Pauli performance?
With St. Pauli lining up with such squad disruption, I don’t think we’ll be able to conclusively say who has nailed their position in the team. I think Dimitris Diamantakos, Mats Dæhli and Avevor will be the only players who started which will remain regulars throughout the season. Under Jos Luhukay I can see a lot of players making sporadic appearances this campaign. The coach has favoured a lot of really young talent and putting absolute confidence in the likes of Finn Ole Becker, Luis Coordes and now with Conteh has to be admired, but also questioned. I’m sure many will agree that it wasn’t a strong St. Pauli performance, but given the lack of key players and the fact that their hosts were not an easy team to break down, I think there will be some acceptance. Nobody really shone on the night, you could point fingers at the goalscorer, who definitely made an impression. However, other than his tasty footwork and pace leading up to the goal, it wasn’t a ‘man of the match’ performance. The 19-year-old may retain his place, but anything is possible with Luhukay at the wheel.
Essentially, it is hard to read what will happen following this fixture. Luhukay is still trying to sieve through the gold-lined St. Pauli II, whilst also offering players like Hornschuh a chance to prove his worth in the squad. To wipe my hands clean of any bold claim, I’m not too sure if anyone can see how this season will reveal itself. With this fixture being so one-sided and creativity being restrained, I don’t believe we really got to see a fair representation of how The Boys in Brown will aim to display over the next 10 months. We can only prepare ourselves for another unpredictable year at the club.
Looking back through the last few seasons we have followed the pattern of ‘not enough goals’ but a ‘fairly strong defence’. This has lead us finishing mid-table on most occasions, often barely surviving the drop. We’ve relied on a handful of players (non-traditional forwards) scoring above what is expected of them, whilst our forwards usually underachieve and find themselves frustrated. Whilst our back-line has mostly retained its shape and faces, we’ve had more forwards move though the club than is regular. Luhukay will need to put faith into someone, whether that may be Diamantakos, Henk Veerman or Borys Tashchy, giving them time and patience whilst the fortification is in progress. It’s important that both squad, staff and manager work in cohesion with each other, ensuring that a clear plan is in progress.