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FC St. Pauli slipped to a frustrating 2-1 defeat at SV Darmstadt 98 on their return to league action on Tuesday night. After taking a first-half lead through Ryo Miyaichi they looked firmly on the road to victory until late goals from Marcel Heller and Serdar Dursun turned the game on its head.

As announced, Markus Kauczinski fielded Florian Carstens alongside Christopher Avevor in central defence. Of the three new recruits, only Alexander Meier made the trip to Darmstadt. The striker began on the bench, with Dimitrios Diamantakos starting as the lone striker and Mats Møller Dæhli, Christopher Buchtmann and Ryo Miyaichi tasked with providing tempo and ideas in midfield. For the Lilies, Dirk Schuster handed winter signing Victor Palsson his first start in defensive midfield.

Both sides took a while to get going on their return from the winter break and some wayward passing and two focused defences ensured neither side carried an attacking threat in the opening quarter of an hour. The first incident of note was a challenge involving Serdar Dursun and Jeremy Dudziak after which the latter required treatment on the touchline before eventually returning to the fray.

Not until the 22nd minute did Robin Himmelmann's goal come under serious attack when Dursun flashed a header wide. Sixty seconds later another Dursun header cleared the crossbar. The St. Pauli captain had to intervene on 26 minutes, however, diving low to keep out a drive from Fabian Holland before Yannick Stark blazed the rebound over the top. That was about the only excitement for the 11,400 spectators in a game that failed to sparkle in the opening half-hour.

Yet that was to change in the 37th minute when the first move of any real quality saw the Boys in Brown take a rather flattering lead. Møller Dæhli worked his way down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross into the middle for Miyaichi to nod home. And it was very nearly 2-0 on the stroke of half-time when a Diamantakos shot from the edge of the box took a slight deflection and clipped the right-hand upright on its way out for a corner.

The first half may have been a drab affair for long periods but the second began with a bang. Just 30 seconds in Møller Dæhli sent Diamantakos clear, but the Greek striker was unable to get the better of Darmstadt keeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes. Diamantakos was in the thick of things again eight minutes later when he was only denied by a last-ditch challenge from Tim Rieder in the box. At the other end, there were loud appeals for a penalty when Daniel Buballa tackled Marcel Heller in the box. Manuel Gräfe was not interested, though, and the home side had to settle for a corner. A stroke of good fortune for the Boys in Brown perhaps, although Heller may well have been in an offside position when the pass was played.

Darmstadt had their tails up now and fashioned the best chance of the game to that point on 65 minutes when Marvin Mehlem produced a good save from Himmelmann. With the Lilies pushing for an equaliser, Kauczinski's side were presented with several opportunities on the break, but their counterthrusts lacked punch. Kauczinski responded with the introduction of Johannes Flum for Buchtmann to stabilise the defence with a quarter of an hour left, having previously replaced the injured Miyaichi with Waldemar Sobota on 59.

In the 81st minute the home side finally found a way through, however. Heller's shot flew between Avevor's legs, causing Himmelmann to see it very late, and the ball flashed past the keeper into the far corner. In the closing stages Meier came on for his competitive debut, the tireless Diamantakos making way. But it was Heller who had the next chance, his shot missing the target by a whisker. Darmstadt made no mistake in the 89th minute, however. Substitute Felix Platte lofted a pass to Dursun, who left Himmelmann no chance with a first-time drive from ten metres. The Boys in Brown threw everything at it in time added on but a harmless long-range effort from Carstens was all they could muster.

SV Darmstadt 98

Heuer Fernandes - Rieder (Herrmann 84'), Franke, Höhn, Holland - Palsson (Bertram 69'), Stark - Heller, Mehlem, Jones (Platte 80') - Dursun

Head coach: Dirk Schuster


FC St. Pauli

Himmelmann - Zander, Carstens, Avevor, Buballa - Knoll, Dudziak - Miyaichi (Sobota 59'), Buchtmann (Flum 75'), Møller Dæhli - Diamantakos (Meier 84')

Head coach: Markus Kauczinski


Goals: 0-1 Miyaichi (37'), 1-1 Heller (81'), 2-1 Dursun (89')

Yellow cards: Palsson – Carstens

Referee: Manuel Gräfe

Attendance: 11,400


Photos: Witters