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BOYS IN BROWN EDGED OUT IN HARD-FOUGHT CONTEST

St. Pauli slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Union Berlin in front of a sell-out crowd at the Millerntor on Friday evening. Goals from Sebastian Polter and Damir Kreilach gave the visitors a two-goal lead before Aziz Bouhaddouz pulled one back seven minutes from time, but the equaliser proved elusive.

A Friday evening game under floodlights and another key clash in the battle against the drop. What more could a St. Pauli fan want going into the weekend? Correct, top-class opponents. A wish that was fulfilled in the shape of Union Berlin. Home coach Ewald Lienen availed himself of a well-known heuristic before the game. "Never change a winning team" was the motto as he set out to ensure another statistic remained unchanged – the one that showed Union Berlin had yet to win at the Millerntor. With the visitors determined to end that winless run, the scene was set for one of those special evenings.

After a brief phase in which the two sides felt each out, the Millerntor exploded into a cauldron of noise in the eighth minute when Aziz Bouhaddouz tricked his way down the right and spotted Mats Møller Dæhli in the middle. The Norwegian's flying header was blocked and the rebound fell to Cenk Sahin, but his effort flew inches past the right-hand upright. A good start nevertheless, and a small warning shot early on.

Jens Keller's side were wide awake, too. With 11 minutes gone, Michael Parensen intercepted a Daniel Buballa pass in midfield and tried his luck from outside the box, his shot flying just wide of Philipp Heerwagen's goal. Three minutes later Felix Kroos was the next to have a pop from range, but his shot tested the resilience of the catch net in front of the North Stand. 

With both sides looking to get forward at every opportunity, the Millerntor crowd had little time to draw breath. After 17 minutes Møller Dæhli knocked a ball forward for Sahin to chase. The young winger burst into the penalty area, danced past two defenders and pulled the trigger, only for another defender to get a block in and prevent what would have been a certain goal.

The fans had the breath knocked out of them two minutes later, however, when Kroos dispatched a raking pass into the box towards Sebastian Polter. The ball hit Buballa and dropped down in front of the Union striker, who stuck out a leg instinctively and diverted it into the net with his right knee. A freak goal, for sure, but they all count and the visitors were one up.

Undaunted by the setback, the Boys in Brown took the bull by the horns and attacked. At the same time, they had to remain alert at the back, as Union looked incredibly dangerous whenever they got near the penalty box. On one such foray in the 27th minute Lasse Sobiech risked his neck to get to the ball ahead of Fürstner. He arrived a touch too late, unfortunately, and earned himself a booking, his fifth of the season.

Four minutes later there was an audible intake of breath around the ground when the ball was played into the box to Hedlund, who unleashed a first-time effort on goal. Heerwagen saw it coming, however, and defused the danger at the second attempt. The Boys in Brown were no less of a threat, and on 39 minutes Møller Dæhli showed great vision to thread a pass through to Christopher Buchtmann on the left-hand side. Unfortunately, his whipped-in cross was blocked by a defender before Bouhaddouz could latch onto it.

The action continued unabated. Damir Kreilach hooked the ball clear and in doing so initiated a counterattack that ended with Hedlund clean through on Heerwagen. But the St. Pauli keeper raced out his goal to produce a magnificent save with his legs and keep his side in the game at the half.

Cenk Sahin sidesteps Toni Leistner.

Cenk Sahin sidesteps Toni Leistner.

The two sides emerged unchanged for the second 45. There was to be a change three minutes after the restart, however, and unfortunately it was on the scoreboard. Steven Skrzybski worked his way to the byline and lofted the ball towards the back post, where Kreilach outjumped Dudziak to nod home. There followed a ten-minute spell in which both teams allowed themselves a short creative break. Nevertheless, the feeling that something could happen at any minute remained, and the game continued to prove a treat for neutral observers of the proceedings.

One could be forgiven for thinking Ewald Lienen's side might crumble after going two down, but far from it. Instead, they exhibited great desire as they sought a way back into it. Sobiech went close with a header on 64 and Buchtmann hit a shot over the top two minutes later. Lienen then made a double substitution, introducing Lennart Thy and Ryo Miyaichi for Sahin and Møller Dæhli. 

Thy was presented with his first opportunity 11 minutes after coming on when he got on the end of a Buballa cross, only for the ball to fly narrowly wide. That was the signal for a final onslaught by the Boys in Brown, and just two minutes later Bouhaddouz reduced the deficit with a header from Sobota's cross to prompt another surge in noise from the home crowd.

In the closing stages the game ebbed to and fro. On 88 minutes Fürstner had an opportunity to settle it but was denied by Heerwagen. At the other end Thy headed just wide from Sobiech's flick-on. Thy had another chance to restore parity in stoppage time when Miyaichi cut the ball back to him, but his shot whistled over the top. A few minutes later the referee blew the final whistle to condemn the Boys in Brown to a 2-1 defeat.

FC St. Pauli

Heerwagen – Dudziak, Hornschuh, Sobiech, Buballa –  Sahin (Thy 70'), Nehrig, Buchtmann, Sobota –Møller Dæhli (Miyaichi 70'), Bouhaddouz

Head coach: Ewald Lienen

  

Union Berlin

Mesenhöler - Trimmel, Leistner, Pogatetz, Parensen - Fürstner - Kroos (Zejnullahu 90'+1), Kreilach - Hedlund (Redondo 73'), Polter, Skrzybski (Kessel 90'+2)

Head coach: Jens Keller

 

Goals: 0-1 Polter (19'), 0-2 Kreilach (48'), 1-2 Bouhaddouz (83')

Yellow cards: Sobiech - Leistner, Pogatetz, Skrzybski

Referee: Sascha Stegemann

Attendance: 29,546 (sold out)

 

Photos: Witters

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