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FC St. Pauli beat fellow challengers FC Heidenheim by the only goal of the game on Friday evening to secure three vital points in the promotion race. After an intense, yet goalless first half, the Boys in Brown gradually took charge of the proceedings after the interval in front of 27,433 fans, but were unable to find a way through until Daniel-Kofi Kyereh finally broke the deadlock from a perfect cross by Leart Paqarada on 67 minutes.

Head coach Timo Schultz made one change to the side that drew 1-1 at Dynamo Dresden last week, Christopher Buchtmann dropping to the bench for Eric Smith. The Swede began in holding midfield, with Jackson Irvine moving up to the side of the diamond. Heidenheim coach Frank Schmidt made four adjustments from the 2-1 home win over Werder Bremen and also switched from a back four to a back three, whereas the Boys in Brown started in their customary 4-4-2 formation. Both teams observed a minute's silence for former German Football Association president Egidius Braun, who passed away on Wednesday, before the game kicked off in front of 27,433 fans at the Millerntor – the highest home crowd since March 2020.

The Schultz XI pushed forward from the off but were unable to fashion any chances of note in the opening stages. With ten minutes gone a deflected Simon Makienok effort fell to Marcel Beifus in the box, but his left-foot drive went flew well off target. Almost immediately, Norman Theuerkauf knocked a long ball in behind the defence to Stefan Schimmer, though his slightly mistimed volley cleared the bar by some distance. Apart from that, there was little for the fans of either side to shout about early on. Much of the action unfolded between the two penalty areas, the result of both teams remaining solid at the back and keeping the space tight.

A brief moment of danger followed on 21 when Heidenheim won possession in midfield and Tobias Mohr dispatched a fine pass into the box for Schimmer to shoot, but Nikola Vasilj was out of his goal quickly to produce an excellent save with his foot. Vasilj was in the spotlight again nine minutes later when Mohr lofted the ball over the top for Christian Kühlwetter to unleash a powerful drive on goal from a narrow angle, forcing another smart save from the keeper.

It remained a high-intensity affair, which was reflected in some of the tackles put in by both teams. That made for several stoppages and breaks for treatment, but on 37 minutes Guido Burgstaller cut into the box from the right, skipped past a defender and pulled the trigger from a narrow angle, only for Müller to stick out a foot and make the save at the near post. That was the last of the action in the first half and the two sides went in goalless at the break.

Guido Burgstaller is denied by Heidenheim keeper Kevin Müller from a tight angle in the 37th minute.

Guido Burgstaller is denied by Heidenheim keeper Kevin Müller from a tight angle in the 37th minute.

Both sides emerged unchanged for the second period. Given the fact that the last three meetings had produced an incredible 19 goals and the Boys in Brown had won all three, there were grounds for hoping the ball would eventually find the Heidenheim net after the interval. That would require the Schultz XI to step up a gear, however, and that is exactly what they did, creating several chances early on, with Marcel Hartel having a hand in most of them. First, the midfielder had a pop from distance, the ball fizzing past the top-left corner. Moments later, Simon Makienok latched onto a pass from Hartel and had a sight of goal, but Müller stuck out his left foot to keep out the Danish striker's shot from 12 metres.

The industrious Hartel then did brilliantly to force his way down the left and cut the ball back for Burgstaller in the box. Unfortunately, the Austrian was unable to get his feet right and his shot rolled past the far post. Then, Hartel drove forward from midfield and tried his luck from range, only to see his shot blocked. In a phase that saw some sloppiness creep into the build-up play, Mohr plucked up the courage to go for goal from 30 metres out, but he smashed his shot over the top. At the other end, Makienok dragged an effort well wide of the far post.

The game had well and truly burst into life by this stage and on 67 the Boys in Brown finally made the breakthrough. Leart Paqarada delivered an inch-perfect cross into the area and found Kyereh, who had sneaked in behind two defenders and had no trouble netting first time from close range. Four minutes later the Schultz XI could have doubled their advantage when Makienok flicked on a long ball to Burgstaller with his head, but he was denied by Müller.

The visitors stepped up the pressure in the final quarter of an hour, with the Boys in Brown content to sit back and wait for a chance to break. On one such occasion in the 77th minute, the Schultz XI broke quickly and presented Kyereh with the opportunity to shoot, but his effort flew well off target. Heidenheim continued to struggle to create anything, and instead it was the Boys in Brown who carved out the next opportunity. Hartel played a one-two with Kyereh and went for goal from 18 metres, only to see Müller dive to his right to turn the ball round the post for a corner. Shortly after that, Makienok could have put the result beyond all reasonable doubt following a cross from Beifus, but he got underneath it and fired well over.

The Boys in Brown were almost made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal moments later when substitute Tim Kleindienst headed against the bar. That was the signal for Heidenheim to throw everything at it, but a long-range shot from Norman Theuerkauf that lacked accuracy was all they had to show for their efforts. Igor Matanović and Kyereh both had chances to put the game to bed late on, but Müller kept his side in it on both occasions. Nothing much happened after that, however, and the Boys in Brown held on to defeat chasers Heidenheim by a goal to nil, a result that was more than deserved given the strong second half improvement.

FC St. Pauli

Vasilj - Dźwigała (Zander 82'), Beifus, Medić, Paqarada - Smith (Buchtmann 82'), Irvine, Hartel, Kyereh (Ritzka 90'+2) - Makienok, Burgstaller (Matanović 87')

Head coach: Timo Schultz


FC Heidenheim

Müller - Siersleben, Hüsing, Mainka (Malone 75') - Rittmüller (Stark 81'), Geipl (Leipertz 75'), Burnić (Schöppner 56'), Theuerkauf - Kühlwetter (Kleindienst 56'), Schimmer, Mohr

Head coach: Frank Schmidt


Goals: 1-0 Kyereh (67')

Yellow cards: Makienok, Beifus, Vasilj – Kühlwetter, Burnić, Geipl

Referee: Bastian Dankert (Rostock)

Attendance: 27,433


Photos: Witters