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FC St. Pauli were beaten 3-2 at FC Schalke 04 on the penultimate day of the season despite a performance full of passion. The Boys in Brown took an early two-goal lead thanks to an Igor Matanović brace but goals from Simon Terodde (2) and Rodrigo Zalazar after the break turned it round to secure promotion back to the Bundesliga for the Royal Blues.

The headlines in the week before the game were dominated by the selection concerns impacting the Boys in Brown. Faced with a host of players sidelined by the coronavirus, head coach Timo Schultz had to admit at the news conference ahead of the trip to Schalke that he had no idea who he could include in his plans. In the end, the starting lineup featured six changes compared with the 1-1 draw against Nürnberg. Dennis Smarsch made his second league appearance in goal, with youngster Igor Matanović getting the nod in attack. 

With Darmstadt losing at Düsseldorf on Friday evening, the home side had the opportunity to seal promotion to the Bundesliga with a win. Accordingly, they came flying out of the traps in front of a sell-out crowd and could have taken the lead in the opening minute after a mistake by Marcel Beifus left Simon Terodde clean through on goal. The striker is usually lethal in these situations, but Smarsch held his nerve and made the block. Just four minutes later, Marius Bülter broke down the left and was denied by the keeper from a narrow angle. 

It had been one-way traffic in the opening stages but in the eighth minute the Boys in Brown turned the game on its head on their first venture upfield. Jackson Irvine backheeled a low ball from Leart Paqarada to Matanović, who found the far corner of the net with his weaker right foot. And there was more to come. Nine minutes after that, Irvine stole the ball in the opposition build-up and fed Matanović, who danced past a couple of defenders before notching his second of the evening. 

In a crazy first half it seemed the luck the Boys in Brown have been sorely lacking in recent weeks had returned with a vengeance. In the 23rd minute, Ko Itakura thought he had pulled one back for the home side from a corner, but referee Marco Fritz ruled the goal out for a handball after an intervention by the video assistant referee. The home side continued to push forward but lacked the effectiveness of the Boys in Brown. Dominik Drexler laid off a Bülter cross intelligently for Terodde, who somehow managed to hit Jakov Medić with his shot from two metres out. That was the last of the action in the first half and the Boys in Brown went in two goals to the good at the break.  

Igor Matanović made the difference in the first half with his first senior brace.

Igor Matanović made the difference in the first half with his first senior brace.

Schalke did not take long to put themselves back into the game after the restart. Just seconds in, Medić held Terodde briefly in the box and the referee pointed straight to the spot – a harsh decision to say the least. Terodde took it himself and sent Smarsch the wrong way to halve the deficit.

In the ensuing period, the Boys in Brown were able to keep the home side at bay for long periods with some brave defending in the danger area, but the pressure eventually told. Two minutes after a Darko Churlinov strike had been ruled out for offside on 68, Terodde was criminally left in acres of space in the box and slid the ball home for the equaliser.

The game ebbed and flowed after that and the Schultz XI stated their intentions in the 76th minute when Marcel Beifus met a corner first time on the volley, but Schalke keeper Martin Fraisl was perfectly placed to keep out his powerfully struck shot. Two minutes later, however, the hosts broke through Bülter, who spotted substitute Rodrigo Zalazar on the left, and the former St. Pauli hammered a shot in off the underside of the bar.

When Beifus was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Florian Flick two minutes later, the game had definitively turned in Schalke's favour, who were certain to go up if the score remained the same. The Boys in Brown continued to push forward but were unable to find an equaliser. Finally, in time added on, Matanović received a second booking and was given his marching orders. That means he will miss the final game of the season against Düsseldorf, as will Daniel-Kofi Kyereh who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season. At the end of seven minutes of time added on, a bitterly disappointing defeat was done and dusted, and Schalke were left celebrating promotion to the Bundesliga. Many congratulations to the Royal Blues from us.

FC Schalke 04

Fraisl – Vindheim (Aydin 55'), Itakura, Kaminski, Ouwejan – Flick, Latza (Palsson 79') – Drexler (Zalazar 67'), Bülter, Churlinov (Idrizi 79') – Terodde

Head coach: Michael Büskens


FC St. Pauli

Smarsch – Zander, Beifus, Medić, Paqarada (Makienok 79') – Aremu (Ritzka 58') - Irvine, Benatelli (Daschner 79') – Hartel – Matanović, Kyereh

Head coach: Timo Schultz


Goals: 0-1 Matanović (8'), 0-2 Matanović (17'), 1-2 Terodde (pen. 47'), 2-2 Terodde (70'), 3-2 Zalazar (78')

Yellow cards: Latza, Vindheim, Idrizi – Aremu, Medić, Kyereh

Red card (second yellow): Matanović (90'+5 persistent foul play)

Red card: Marcel Beifus (81' dangerous play)

Referee: Marco Fritz

Attendance: 62,271


Photos: Witters