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TOTAL COMMITMENT IN THE DERBY - FROM THE FIRST MINUTE TO THE LAST

One hundred and fifty-nine days after the 2-0 home win in the first derby of the season, FC St. Pauli cross the city for the return fixture this Saturday (kick-off: 13:00 CET. Against a resurgent HSV, the Boys in Brown go into the game as clear outsiders, at least as far as the league table is concerned. To get a result in the second meeting of the two sides this season, Jos Luhukay's team will need to show absolute passion and desire. From the first minute to the last.

At last, the time has come. Saturday. The second derby of the season. Volksparkstadion. Ninety absorbing minutes plus stoppage time. "It's bigger than any other league game," said centre-back Leo Østigård before the second Hamburg derby of the season. And so it is. Not just for Østigård and his teammates, but also for the writer of these lines and especially for the fans. From 13:00 CET on Saturday, the focus will be on nothing but the 90 minutes to come. What has gone before counts for nothing, just these 90 minutes plus any time added on by the experienced referee Manuel Gräfe.

In view of the footballing situation, the Boys in Brown go into the game as challengers. The favourites tag is now firmly with HSV, who are unbeaten in six and very strong at home. The second-placed side began the new year with three successive wins against Nürnberg (4-1), Bochum (3-1) and Karlsruhe (2-0), but had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Hannover last week, winter signing Joel Pohjanpalo grabbing the equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time to give Hecking's side a draw that will have felt more like a win.

In contrast, last week's scoreless draw with Dynamo Dresden felt more like a defeat for the Boys in Brown. The final minute of time added on at the Millerntor didn't go quite as well as it did for our local rivals. Instead of finding the net, Ryo Miyaichi's shot smacked against the left-hand upright. Jos Luhukay's charges were by far the better team but lacked precision in front of goal and thus failed to get the return the performance deserved. The sense of frustration and disappointment at picking up a solitary point was tangible after the game.

It was a similar picture before the first derby of the season at the Millerntor in September, when the mood in the camp was not exactly buzzing. After racing into a 3-0 lead at Dresden the previous week, they returned to Hamburg with just a point after another draw that felt more like a defeat.

The contrasting fortunes of the two sides in recent weeks will not be decisive on Saturday, however. instead, it will come down to the form on the day, as centre-back Leo Østigård and head coach Jos Luhukay both emphasised going into the game. In the reverse fixture, it was the Boys in Brown who hit a rich vein of form on the day. Indeed, had they not squandered several chances in the closing stages, the margin of victory could have been even higher. HSV coach Dieter Hecking was later forced to admit that the Boys in Brown had "done very well" in that game.

The Boys in Brown aim to do very well again in the return fixture and, of course, come away with all three points. Luhukay has virtually a full squad to choose from in this quest, with only long-term absentees Christopher Avevor and Christian Conteh definitely ruled out. HSV, in contrast, will be without midfielders Adrian Fein (broken cheekbone) and Jeremy Dudziak (medial collateral ligament sprain and stretched anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee).

It remains to be seen which eleven players Hecking will send out against the Boys in Brown. What is certain, however, is that the Boys in Brown will have to give their all. In addition to the "absolute passion and winning mentality" demanded by Luhukay, as in the return fixture, that means courage, ingenuity, and, with a view to the stalemate against Dresden, more effectiveness in front of goal. Anything is possible then.

 

Photos: Witters

 

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