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FC St. Pauli were held to a goalless draw by Fortuna Düsseldorf in the weekend’s top fixture on Saturday evening. The Boys in Brown dictated the proceedings in front of a sell-out crowd at the Millerntor but were unable to make any of their chances count. Marcel Hartel came closest to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when his shot smacked back off the crossbar.

Head coach Fabian Hürzeler made one change to the side that won 3-0 at league leaders Darmstadt last week, Adam Dźwigała making way for the fit-again Eric Smith. Fortuna coach Daniel Thioune, in contrast, made three adjustments after the 3-0 home win against Holstein Kiel. Jordy de Wijs, Felix Klaus and Dawid Kownacki came in for Nicolas Gavory, Elione Fernandes Neto and Kristoffer Peterson.

The two teams went into the game level on points and with only one thing on their mind: to close the gap to HSV in third to just one point with a win. In front of a sell-out crowd at the Millerntor the Boys in Brown fashioned the first chance just three minutes in following a corner when a Jakov Medić volley from the edge of the box flew over the top. The Hürzeler XI dominated the opening stages, keeping things tight at the back and repeatedly coming up with creative solutions up front. Yet it was a set piece that prompted the noise levels inside the Millerntor to rise another notch in the 11th minute. Leart Paqarada bent the free-kick round the wall but didn’t get enough on it and the ball went past the left-hand upright.

It was one-way traffic now and two minutes later an Oladapo Afolayan shot took a slight deflection past the near post. The resulting corner was met by Eric Smith, but his bouncing header was helped over the top by Florian Kastenmeier in the Fortuna goal. Moments later, Lukas Daschner set his sights on the far corner from the right-hand corner of the area and ball fizzed just wide. A lapse in concentration at the other end allowed Dawid Kownacki time and space to cross from the left to the unmarked Felix Klaus at the back post, but his header was way too high. Then, midway through the half, Paqarada whipped a ball in from the left and Daschner, under pressure from a couple of defenders, sent his glancing header over the top.

The Hürzeler XI remained the more likely side. Afolayan cut in from the right and fed Elias Saad just outside the box. A lovely feint later, he pulled the trigger, and the ball flew narrowly the wrong side of the post. Fortuna struggled to find a way through the compact brown-and-white rearguard and in the 38th minute Saad threatened again, bursting into the area and getting a shot off as he fell to the ground. André Hoffmann slid in to block and the ball struck him on the arm. Amid loud shouts for a penalty, referee Matthias Jöllenbeck, after consulting with the VAR, waved play on. We have seen those given. Then, on the stroke of half-time, the Boys in Brown came within a whisker of taking a deserved lead. A fine move involving Paqarada, Saad and Daschner culminated with Marcel Hartel hammering a shot against the crossbar from just outside the box. Within 60 seconds, the midfielder had another go, but he got underneath it and the ball sailed over.


Marcel Hartel (here under challenge from Emmanuel Iyoha) came within a whisker of opening the scoring just before the interval.

Marcel Hartel (here under challenge from Emmanuel Iyoha) came within a whisker of opening the scoring just before the interval.

Both coaches went with an unchanged side for the second period. And the pattern of play remained the same, with the Boys in Brown continuing to carry the greater threat. Düsseldorf attempted to interrupt their flow with a much higher press at times but had little joy against some fine positional play and passing from the hosts. There was little between the teams in terms of distance covered and tackles made, but 15-0 attempts on goal with an hour gone underscored the superiority of the Hürzeler XI. The only thing missing was a goal.

Medić did his best to alter that statistic from a corner on 59, but his shot from the edge of the box was held by Kastenmeier. There was no need for the Fortuna custodian to intervene five minutes later when Karol Mets couldn’t direct his header on target. Thioune responded with the introduction of a fresh striker in Jona Niemiec for Daniel Ginczek. Within minutes of coming on, Niemiec rifled a shot against the underside of the bar. It really would have taken the biscuit had the visitors taken the lead with their first attempt, such was the home dominance. Almost immediately, the jet-heeled Saad cut in from the left and had a clear sight of goal from almost 25 metres out. He put it over, though, and it remained 0-0.

With the game entering the closing stages, Paqarada capitalised when Smith won possession in the Düsseldorf half and wasted no time in getting a shot off from 25 metres, but the ball zipped two metres wide of the right-hand post. The Boys in Brown continued to press under the raucous backing of the fans. Hürzeler made his first change in the 77th minute, throwing on Connor Metcalfe for Elias Saad. Then, almost out of the blue, Niemiec popped up again the St. Pauli box, but Mets stepped in to block with a magnificent last-ditch lunge – a crucial intervention. David Otto entered the fray for Lukas Daschner with four minutes left and was soon followed by Johannes Eggestein for Oladapo Afolayan. The Hürzeler XI laid siege to the Düsseldorf goal in the last few minutes but all their superiority counted for nothing, and they had to settle for a scoreless draw.

FC St. Pauli

Vasilj - Medic, Smith, Mets - Saliakas, Irvine, Hartel, Paqarada - Afolayan (Eggestein 89’), Daschner (Otto 85’), Saad (Metcalfe 77’)

Head coach: Fabian Hürzeler

Fortuna Düsseldorf

Kastenmeier - De Wijs (Karbownik 71’), Hoffmann, Klarer - Klaus (Gavory 86’), Zimmermann, Oberdorf, Appelkamp, Iyoha (Peterson 86’) - Kownacki (Hennings 86’), Ginczek (Niemiec 67’)

Head coach: Daniel Thioune


Yellow cards: Mets - Ginczek, Hoffmann, Klarer, Zimmermann

Referee: Matthias Jöllenbeck (Freiburg)

Attendance: 29,546 (sold out)

Photos: FC St. Pauli / Witters