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FC St. Pauli won the weekend's top fixture by two goals to one at Fortuna Düsseldorf on Saturday night in front of a 52,000 capacity crowd at the Merkur Spiel-Arena. Marcel Hartel gave his side a two-goal first-half lead from the spot and with a header before Christos Tzolis pulled one back for Fortuna in the closing stages, but the Boys in Brown defended with passion and were not to be denied.

After the 2-0 defeat of FC Kaiserslautern last time out, the same 11 players took to the field for the weekend's top fixture at Fortuna Düsseldorf. There was a change on the touchline, however, where assistant coach Peter Németh stood in for the suspended Fabian Hürzeler, who was at least able to speak to the players in the dressing-room before kick-off and at half-time. Fortuna boss Daniel Thioune made one adjustment to the side that secured a 2-2 draw at Hertha BSC, Nicolas Gavory replacing the ailing Tim Oberdorf.

In the second Fortuna for All home game, with free admission for every spectator, it was the Boys in Brown who created the first opportunity in the third minute when Marcel Hartel popped up unmarked in front of Florian Kastenmeier following an exquisite Manolis Saliakas pass, but the Fortuna keeper prevented an early lead with a decent reflex save. The home side attempted to stifle our build-up play with their pressing game, but weren't always successful, as Hartel's early chance showed. Then, after a foul on Oladapo Afolayan with a quarter of an hour gone, Eric Smith curled the free-kick narrowly past the right-hand upright from 22 metres. To the surprise of many, referee Frank Willenborg intervened by pointing to the spot, having spotted that the man on the end of the wall, Vincent Vermeij, had deflected the ball wide with his elbow. Hartel stepped up and converted with aplomb into the bottom left corner.

The Boys in Brown were so solid in defence that the league's most potent attacking force (39 goals already) simply couldn't get going. And things were going really well up front as well. On 26 minutes, Afolayan spread the ball wide to Saliakas, who delivered a pinpoint cross from the right-hand corner of the penalty area to Hartel, and he directed a glancing header into the bottom left corner to double the advantage. The hosts had already made a poor start to the first Fortuna for All home game against Kaiserslautern in October, but after going 3-0 down they managed to turn it round and win 4-3. They fashioned their first chance in the 29th minute when the ball was threaded through to Christos Tzolis in the box, but his square ball was cleared by Philipp Treu. Ao Tanaka tried his luck from distance eight minutes later, but Nikola Vasilj had no trouble defusing the shot, which was too centrally placed. At the other end, Emmanuel Iyoha and André Hoffmann joined forces to stop Johannes Eggestein, who would have been clean through otherwise. Tzolis curled a shot high and wide in time added on and that was that for the first half.

Marcel Hartel converts a perfect Saliakas cross in fine style to make it 2-0.

Marcel Hartel converts a perfect Saliakas cross in fine style to make it 2-0.

The Boys in Brown had run an outstanding 67.4 kilometres in the first half, almost seven more than the home side, and they returned from the interval unchanged, as did Fortuna. The home side hit the ground running and almost pulled one back straightaway, Jordi de Wijs heading a Nicolas Gavory cross towards goal from close range, but Vasilj got a hand up to tip the ball over the bar. Soon after both Gavory and Tanaka were allowed space to shoot from distance, both fired well off target, however. The home side were not about to give up easily and noticeably stepped up the pressure.

Yet not only did the Boys in Brown withstand that pressure, they also had a chance to extend their lead on 55 when Eggestein teed up Saad in the box, who danced past a defender and pulled the trigger from 15 metres, only for Kastenmeier to dive to his left and turn the ball past the far post. Five minutes later Düsseldorf thought they had pulled one back, but Ísak Jóhannesson was offside before dispatching a pass to goalscorer Tzolis. Thioune then reinforced his attack with the addition of Christoph Daferner for Jóhannesson and from a 4-2-3-1 to two strikers operating in a 4-4-2. Felix Klaus also replaced Jona Niemiec. Fortuna continued to enjoy more possession but were unable to capitalise because the Boys in Brown kept things tight in an excellent defensive performance. And on the few occasions they did get forward, they threatened almost every time. A neat passing move ended with Eggestein knocking the ball to the advancing Treu in the left channel. He went for goal from 14 metres, but his shot found the side netting. Two minutes later, Kastenmeier defused a dipping long-range effort from Hartel.

The game entered the closing stages with the Boys in Brown looking odds-on favourites to claim another three points. Afolayan could have settled it on 77, but his header was tipped over by Kastenmeier. Németh made his first substitution three minutes later, introducing Etienne Amenyido for Elias Saad. His charges then had a penalty shout for handball turned down, and after a foul on Afolayan, Düsseldorf launched a counterattack that ended with Tzolis halving the deficit. Referee Willenborg was contacted by the VAR, but declined to have a look at either situation, making for an exciting close.

Tzolis smacked a shot well wide from 20 metres with two minutes left, and though Düsseldorf threw everyone forward in time added on, the Boys in Brown defended with passion and desire as they sought to protect their lead. Their endeavours proved successful. A convincing performance gave them a deserved 2-1 victory and ensured they were able to celebrate the three points in front of the 5,000 or so travelling fans.


Fortuna Düsseldorf

Kastenmeier - Gavory (Jastrzembski 87'), Hoffmann, de Wijs, Iyoha (Uchino 73') - Engelhardt, Tanaka - Niemiec (Klaus 61'), Jóhannesson (Daferner 61'), Tzolis - Vermeij

Head coach: Daniel Thioune


FC St. Pauli

Vasilj - Wahl, Smith, Mets - Saliakas (Ritzka 89'), Kemlein, Hartel, Treu - Afolayan (Boukhalfa 84'), Eggestein, Saad (Amenyido 80')

Head coach: Fabian Hürzeler (represented by assistant coach Peter Németh during the game)


Goals: 0-1 Hartel (pen. 16'), 0-2 Hartel (26'), 1-2 Tzolis (83')

Yellow cards: de Wijs, Tzolis – Kemlein, Vasilj

Referee: Frank Willenborg (Osnabrück)

Attendance: 52,000


Photos: FC St. Pauli/Witters