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AFOLAYAN ON TARGET AS TEN-MEN BOYS IN BROWN BEAT BRAUNSCHWEIG

FC St. Pauli beat Eintracht Braunschweig by a goal to nil at the Millerntor on Sunday afternoon. In what was a high-intensity affair from the off, Oladapo Afolayan notched the only goal of the game in the 32nd minute. A second yellow card for Elias Saad midway through the second half reduced the Boys in Brown to ten, but they defended with passion to clinch a narrow, yet not undeserved home win.

Head coach Fabian Hürzeler made one change to the side that went down to their first league defeat of the season at FC Magdeburg, captain Jackson Irvine, who missed out last week through illness after returning from the Asian Cup, beginning in place of Aljoscha Kemlein. Braunschweig coach Daniel Scherning was forced to make two adjustments to his rapidly improving side following the 2-0 home win against Karlsruhe. Ron-Thorben Hoffmann is ill and was replaced in goal by Tino Casali, while Niklas Tauer came in for suspended captain Robin Krauße.

Yet another sell-out crowd at the Millerntor saw a high-intensity encounter from the opening whistle. The Boys in Brown seized the initiative early on against a Braunschweig side who were content to sit back and wait for an opportunity to break, but the opening goalscoring opportunity failed to materialise in the opening stages. Little wonder against an Eintracht defence that had conceded just five times on their previous seven outings.

Instead, it was the visitors who suddenly fashioned the first chance of the game in the tenth minute when Johan Gómez broke clear after playing a one-two with Rayan Philipp, though under pressure from Eric Smith he placed his shot well wide from 12 metres.

The Hürzeler XI continued to combine their way to the edge of the penalty area but somehow there was always a Braunschweig defender in the way to ensure they advanced no further, as on 13 minutes when Eric Smith was prevented from getting a shot off from the edge of the box by a last-ditch sliding tackle.

Hürzeler had warned his side that they would need to be patient and he wasn't wrong. Only rarely did a gap open up in the compact Braunschweig rearguard. The visitors stayed true to their style and continued to probe with a string of quick counterthrusts. And with 23 minutes gone Thórir Jóhann Helgason had a golden opportunity to open the scoring following a corner, popping up completely unmarked in front of Nikola Vasilj from Rayan Philippe's ball in, but was seemingly so surprised that he rushed his effort and sliced the shot well wide.

Finally, on 32 minutes, the deadlock was broken. Marcel Hartel volleyed a ball in from Philipp Treu back across goal and Robert Ivanov's clearance flew straight to Oladapo Afolayan, who drilled an angled shot into the far corner to give his side the lead. The Boys in Brown quickly carved out two more decent opportunities. Afolayan hit a low cross into the middle towards the unmarked Johannes Eggestein from the right, but his header was too centrally placed to trouble Tino Casali. A couple of minutes later Irvine chested a ball down and unleashed a first-time volley from 10 metres, only to see the ball fly the wrong side of the left-hand upright.

Five minutes before the break the visitors came close to levelling the scores when a free kick from the right found its way to Ivanov, who was denied from close range by a fine reflex save from Vasilj. At the other end, the Boys in Brown created one more chance to extend their lead when Saad embarked on a fine dribbling run and picked out Eggestein, who slipped the ball to Afolayan in the left channel. The former Bolton man was denied by Casali, however, and the half ended with the Hürzeler XI a goal to the good.

Captain Jackson Irvine slotted in really well on his first competitive appearance for the Boys in Brown in 2024.

Captain Jackson Irvine slotted in really well on his first competitive appearance for the Boys in Brown in 2024.

The two sets of fans marked the start of the second half with loud chants against the investor plans of the German Football League (DFL), but there were to be none of the tennis balls, chocolate coins or remote-controlled cars seen at other grounds, and the game continued without interruption. Both sides emerged unchanged for the second period and the visitors knocked on the door first with a couple of corners in quick succession. Treu excelled in the air to deny Ermin Bičakčić from the first one on 54 before Vasilj was on hand to defuse a Hasan Kuruçay header 60 seconds later. The visitors continued to press and when Gómez teed up Fabio Kaufmann in the box four minutes after that Vasilj produced an excellent reflex save to keep out the midfielder's powerfully struck effort from 13 metres.

Back at the other end the Hürzeler XI came within a whisker of doubling their advantage in the 65th minute when Karol Mets flicked on a Hartel corner to the back stick, where Hauke Wahl saw his close-range effort come back off the underside of the crossbar and Irvine headed the rebound just over. Moments later Elias Saad was shown a second yellow card for one foul too many and the Boys in Brown were down to ten. Hürzeler responded immediately by introducing Connor Metcalfe for Johannes Eggestein, while Braunschweig added fresh attacking legs in Sidi Sané and Florian Krüger for Rayan Philippe and Johan Gómez before throwing on attacking midfielder Hampus Finndell for holding player Niklas Tauer a few minutes later.

The sending-off changed the complexion of the game completely. A man to the good, Braunschweig stepped up their efforts and immediately had more of the possession, yet for all their efforts they were unable to create any moments of danger in the box against the ten men of St. Pauli, who defended with great passion. It was roles reversed now, with the Boys in Brown packing the defence and looking to hit the visitors on the break, and Braunschweig throwing everyone forward in a bid to find an equaliser. Scherning added two more forwards in Anthony Ujah and Anderson Lucoqui for Anton Donkor and Robert Ivanov, prompting Hürzeler to replace Oladapo Afolayan and Manolis Saliakas with Aljoscha Kemlein und Lars Ritzka seven minutes from time. With the raucous backing of the home crowd, the Boys in Brown repelled every Braunschweig attack and saw the game out to the end. All in all, it was a narrow, yet deserved win, one that will give them confidence going into next weekend's top fixture at second-placed Holstein Kiel.

FC St. Pauli

Vasilj - Wahl, Smith, Mets - Saliakas (Ritzka 83'), Irvine, Hartel (Boukhalfa 90'+3), Treu - Saad, Eggestein (Metcalfe 69'), Afolayan (Kemlein 83')

Head coach: Fabian Hürzeler

 

Eintracht Braunschweig

Casali – Ivanov (Ujah 79'), Bičakčić, Kuruçay - Rittmüller, Tauer (Finndell 73'), Donkor (Lucoqui 79'), Kaufmann, Helgason - Gómez (Sané 69'), Philippe (Krüger 69')

Head coach: Daniel Scherning

 

Goal: 1-0 Afolayan (32')

Yellow cards: Saad, Irvine – Tauer, Ujah

Red card (second yellow): Saad (persistent foul play 66')

Referee: Florian Heft (Neuenkirchen)

Attendance: 29,546 (sold out)

 

Photos: FC St. Pauli/Witters

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