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Road to the Bundesliga - Boys in Brown go top and remain unbeaten

After 13 years in the second division, FC St. Pauli are finally back in the Bundesliga. A run of draws at the beginning of the 2023/24 season came to an end when the Hürzeler XI beat Holstein Kiel. Victories against Schalke 04 and Hertha BSC then saw them climb to the top of the table and remain the only unbeaten team in the league. Things also went well in the DFB Cup, where the Boys in Brown progressed to the round of 16.

FC St. Pauli 3-1 FC Schalke 04
Matchday 7

The 5-1 defeat of Holstein Kiel was followed by the second home game in a row against FC Schalke 04. Once again, the Boys in Brown dictated the play from the start and got their reward with the opening goal through Marcel Hartel. However, the compact and deep defending visitors equalised quickly through Sebastian Polter to leave it level at the break. Polter and Elias Saad missed good chances soon after the restart before Hartel capitalised on some good link-up play between Oladapo Afolayan and Johannes Eggestein to restore the advantage. A high-intensity affair produced opportunities at both ends, none of which were taken until substitute Carlo Boukhalfa finally settled it in stoppage time to make the final score 3-1. 

After matchday 7:

Position: 2

Points: 13

Hertha BSC 1-2 FC St. Pauli

Matchday 8

The second of three consecutive top-of-the-bill Saturday night clashes took the Boys in Brown to Berlin, where nigh on 15,000 travelling fans witnessed a superb performance from their team. Hertha had made a mediocre start to the season after relegation from the Bundesliga and the Hürzeler XI dominated the proceedings, taking a deserved lead in at the break thanks to a Johannes Eggestein strike. Some profligate finishing left things tight, however, until Marcel Hartel, who is not exactly known for his heading prowess, finally made it 2-0 a quarter of an hour from time. A mistake in the build-up allowed Derry Scherhant to pull one back, but the Boys in Brown stayed solid at the back and held on to their lead. This third consecutive win saw the Hürzeler XI go top for the first time, level on points with crosstown rivals HSV.

After matchday 8:

Position: 1

Points: 16

FC St. Pauli 5-1 FC Nürnberg

Matchday 9

The Boys in Brown aimed to enter the second international break of the season as league leaders by collecting their fourth win on the bounce and that is exactly what they did. In another dominant showing they took an early lead through Elias Saad., only for Kanji Okunuki to equalise for the visitors midway through the first half. It was one-way traffic after the restart, though, and the ball was to nestle in the back of the Nürnberg net on four more occasions. Johannes Eggestein put the Hürzeler XI on the road to victory with a brace before Etienne Amenyido and Connor Metcalfe added further goals in time added on to complete an emphatic 5-1 win.

After matchday 9:

Position: 1

Points: 19

SC Paderborn 2-2 FC St. Pauli

Matchday 10

Next up for the Boys in Brown after the international break was a trip to seventh-placed Paderborn. They did not start well, Florent Muslija putting the home side ahead with an absolute peach of a goal from 55 metres. It was the first time the Hürzeler XI had fallen behind and that was how it stayed at the break. Connor Metcalfe, on for Elias Saad in the second half, missed a great chance to level just after the restart and not long after a corner led to Johannes Eggestein grabbing the equaliser. The Boys in Brown dominated from then on and got their reward when they took the lead in the closing stages, Jackson Irvine netting on the rebound after Eggestein had hit the post. The joy proved short-lived, however, as Filip Bilbija made it 2-2 just four minutes later and that was how it ended.

After matchday 10:

Position: 1

Points: 20

FC St. Pauli 2-1 Karlsruher SC

Matchday 11

After the 2-2 draw at Paderborn that ended the run of victories, the aim was to return to winning ways against Karlsruher SC at the Millerntor. The Boys in Brown had more of the game yet again but failed to capitalise on their chances and they were stopped in their tracks just before the break when ex-St. Pauli man Igor Matanović struck for the visitors. The Hürzeler XI looked to be heading for their first defeat of the season until Johannes Eggestein scored a more than deserved equaliser ten minutes from time. And there was more to come. Philipp Treu's magnificent hit in the second minute of stoppage time settled it to send the Millerntor into raptures.

For match-winner Philipp Treu, it was obviously a special moment. "It was like a dream," the full-back said after the final whistle. Captain Jackson Irvine reflected on a "very frustrating afternoon at times" because KSC had made things difficult to the end. The Boys in Brown broke them down eventually, though, leaving Irvine to sum up as follows: "Late wins like that are often the best ones."

After matchday 11:

Position: 1

Points: 23

FC St. Pauli 2-1 FC Schalke 04 (aet)

DFB Cup - 2nd round

The Boys in Brown welcomed Schalke to the Millerntor a second time in Round 2 of the DFB Cup just a few weeks after beating them in the league. A large banner displayed in the South Stand before the kick-off called for a repeat performance, but that was not how the game unfolded, as the Royal Blues defended much better and took the lead through Marcin Kamínski on the quarter-hour. The Hürzeler XI struggled to find a way through the Schalke rearguard but stepped up the pressure after the break and restored parity on the hour through a Marcel Hartel penalty. The tie went into extra time, with Johannes Eggestein scoring in the 102nd minute to win it. 

SV 07 Elversberg 0-2 FC St. Pauli

Matchday 12

Just three days after victory in the DFB Cup, the Boys in Brown travelled to SV 07 Elversberg, where they had played just once before, slipping to a shock 4-2 cup defeat at the hands of the then fourth-tier outfit in September 2020. This time, in early November 2023, there were to be no surprises. The Hürzeler XI delivered a focused performance from the outset and deservedly led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Marcel Hartel and the in-form Johannes Eggestein, who netted for the sixth game in succession. The margin of victory could have been higher but for some profligate finishing in the second half.

After matchday 12:

Position: 1

Points: 26

FC St. Pauli 0-0 Hannover 96

Matchday 13

Before the season entered its third international break, the table-topping Boys in Brown entertained third-placed Hannover 96 in the game of the weekend at the Millerntor. Some solid defending ensured the visitors were unable to register a single shot on goal in the first half, while Elias Saad and Oladapo Afolayan missed good chances to open the scoring at the other end. The pattern remained the same after the break, but the Hürzeler XI failed to get the reward for their dominance and the effort they put in and it ended scoreless.

After matchday 11:

Position: 1

Points: 27

Photos: FC St. Pauli/Witters