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FC St. Pauli slipped to a 2-1 defeat in weekend's top fixture at Karlsruher SC on Saturday evening. The home side took an early lead through Marcel Franke before captain Jackson Irvine levelled with a header on 37. Paul Nebel restored the home side's advantage in the 69th minute. Reduced to ten following the sending-off of Hauke Wahl, the Boys in Brown fought in vain to ward off their third defeat of the season.

Six days after the 2-1 home win over Paderborn, head coach Fabian Hürzeler went into the game of the weekend at Karlsruher SC without the suspended Eric Smith and Connor Metcalfe. Adam Dźwigała slotted into the backline for Smith, while Elias Saad returned from suspension to replace Metcalfe. On a positive note, fit-again Oladapo Afolayan featured in the squad for the first time since damaging a ligament in his right ankle in the game at FC Schalke 04. KSC coach Christian Eichner, in contrast, named an unchanged side after last week's goalless draw at Schalke and the preceding 7-0 drubbing of FC Magdeburg.

The Boys in Brown faced a stiff test against a free-scoring Karlsruhe team who started the game unbeaten at home in five months, a test they hoped to pass with the support of more than 3,000 travelling fans. But it was the home side who made the better start in front of a packed house. From a Paul Nebel corner Nikola Vasilj parried Jerôme Gondorf's initial effort, only for Marcel Franke to prod the rebound into the bottom left corner from five metres to give the hosts a second-minute lead.

After that explosive start, the game settled into a high-intensity, evenly balanced encounter in which the Hürzeler XI worked hard to take control. Yet though they hogged the possession, they initially struggled to find their usual rhythm against the man-oriented Karlsruhe press. That changed in the 12th minute when a patient build-up ended with Johannes Eggestein slipping the ball to Manolis Saliakas, who after twice shaping to shoot, wrongfooting Marvin Wanitzek in the process, hammered a shot against the angle. The rebound fell to Saad, who fired wide.

With both sides giving nothing away at the back but lacking precision in the final third, that was to be the last opportunity of note until the 32nd minute. Another fine move saw the increasingly dominant Boys in Brown move the ball quickly from the left-hand side to the right for Jackson Irvine to hit a low cross to the back post, where Saad's shot was blocked by Sebastian Jung. Five minutes later, the scores were level. Hartel pinged a corner into the danger area for Irvine to shake off the attentions of Franke before powering an unstoppable header past KSC keeper Patrick Drewes.

Captain Jackson Irvine headed the equaliser from a Marcel Hartel corner.

Captain Jackson Irvine headed the equaliser from a Marcel Hartel corner.

Both sides emerged unchanged after the interval and nothing changed on the pitch either. It remained a hard-fought contest in which neither team gave an inch. The Hürzeler XI dominated the possession and pinned the home side back in their own half, without unlocking their defence, however. KSC then launched a counterattack and the ball found its way to Wanitzek. The midfielder has a knack for scoring from range, but Vasilj was alert to the danger.

Back at the other end, Irvine went one better when the home side were unable to clear their lines, finding the net off the inside of the post from the edge of the box, only for the goal to be ruled out because Aljoscha Kemlein had strayed offside during the build-up. The Boys in Brown continued to press and when Hartel dispatched a corner to the back post Eggestein was denied by Drewes. Another Hartel corner brought more danger. This time it was Irvine who got the header in, but Drewes produced a fine reflex save to keep it at 1-1.

Karlsruhe eventually escaped the St. Pauli stranglehold around the hour mark and began to push forward themselves. The unmarked Budu Zivzivadze went for goal after receiving a pass from Leon Jensen, and Vasilj had to dive low to his right to keep out the shot before Jung's rebound effort took a deflection and cleared the crossbar by some distance. At the other end, Hartel went to ground in the box under a challenge from David Herold, but referee Michael Bacher waved play on. A fair decision.

Soon after, KSC coach Eichner introduced Dženis Burnić and Fabian Schleusener and the latter quickly had a decisive hand in KSC going back in front, knocking a long ball from Wanitzek square to Nebel in the box, and he left Vasilj no chance from ten metres. Hürzeler responded immediately, throwing on Oladapo Afolayan and Etienne Amenyido for Aljoscha Kemlein and Elias Saad. Moments later, Hartel pulled the trigger from a central position outside the area, but the ball fizzed a good metre over the crossbar.

As the game entered the final quarter of an hour, the Hürzeler XI suffered another setback when Hauke Wahl, who was already on a yellow, was booked a second time for a foul on Igor Matanović and sent off. It was a harsh decision that came seconds after Saliakas had been fouled by Herold in the KSC box, a challenge that went unpunished. Being reduced to ten made it even more difficult to ward off the impending defeat, of course. The best chance fell to Hartel, whose shot flew narrowly the wrong side of the right-hand upright in the second minute of time added on. At the other end, there was time for Wanitzek to hit the woodwork before the final whistle condemned the Boys in Brown to their third defeat of the season.

Karlsruher SC

Drewes - Jung, Franke, Beifus, Herold - Nebel (Stindl 90'), Gondorf (Rapp 90'+2), Jensen (Burnić 67'), Wanitzek - Matanović, Zivzivadze (Schleusener 67')

Head coach: Christian Eichner


FC St. Pauli

Vasilj - Dźwigała, Wahl, Mets - Saliakas, Irvine, Kemlein (Amenyido 71'), Ritzka (Albers 85') - Saad (Afolayan 71'), Eggestein (Maurides 90'), Hartel

Head coach: Fabian Hürzeler


Goals: 1-0 Franke (2'), 1-1 Irvine (37'), 2-1 Nebel (69')

Yellow cards: Drewes, Franke, Gondorf, Stindl – Wahl, Hürzeler

Red card (second yellow): Wahl (persistent foul play 76')

Referee: Michael Bacher (Amerang)

Attendance: 33,000 (sold out)


Photos: Witters