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FC St. Pauli won 2-1 at Wehen Wiesbaden on the final day of the 2023/24 season to secure the second-division title. The Boys in Brown were the better team from the off, but it was Wiesbaden who led at the break thanks to an 11th minute strike from Franko Kovačević. Substitute Andreas Albers levelled the scores shortly after the restart before fellow sub Danel Sinani struck eight minutes from time to give his side the decisive edge in the championship race over Holstein Kiel, who won 2-1 at Hannover 96.

Head coach Fabian Hürzeler went into the final game of the season without Marcel Hartel (ill), who had previously started every competitive game of the campaign. Elias Saad also missed out after being unable to train during the week due to illness. There were two changes to the side that beat VfL Osnabrück 3-1 last week, Manolis Saliakas returning to the starting lineup from suspension along with Aljoscha Kemlein. Scott Banks also featured in the squad after his long injury layoff. Wiesbaden needed all three points to secure 16th spot and a place in the relegation play-off at the expense of Hansa Rostock (at home to SC Paderborn 07), while the Boys in Brown had their sights set on the second-division championship in the race with Holstein Kiel (away to Hannover 96).

Backed by 3,500 travelling fans, the Hürzeler XI created the first big chance with five minutes gone when Oladapo Afolayan danced past two defenders in the middle and slipped the ball to the unmarked Connor Metcalfe, whose shot was blocked in fine fashion by Florian Stritzel. Four minutes later, the Australian was denied by the Wiesbaden keeper a second time. At the other end, a long-range effort from Thijmen Goppel called Nikola Vasilj into action for the first time on 10 minutes. There was nothing the St. Pauli custodian could do from the resulting corner, however. Vukotić headed the ball back across goal and Metcalfe's attempted clearance was headed home by Franko Kovačević.

The Boys in Brown brushed themselves down and immediately went in search of an equaliser. Eric Smith dispatched a long ball forward to Lars Ritzka, and his effort towards the bottom left corner from 14 metres forced another excellent save from Stritzel. The increasingly dominant visitors had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Deniz Aytekin in the 19th minute after Mathisen had held Johannes Eggestein. Jackson Irvine was then presented with an opportunity after a fine passing move, but Stritzel was having none of it once again.

Almost out of the blue, the home side threatened again through Ivan Prtajin, but Vasilj defused the danger at the second attempt. Six minutes later, the same pair locked horns again with the same outcome. Prtajin directed a powerful header towards goal from a corner, only for Vasilj to throw up his right hand and divert the ball over the top. Back at the other end, Metcalfe came close to levelling with an angled drive that fizzed narrowly past the far post. The ball simply wouldn't go in, and the Boys in Brown had Vasilj to thank for keeping it at 1-0 at the break with another save to deny Prtajin. With Kiel leading 2-0 at Hannover to edge in front in the championship race, 45 minutes remained to turn it round.

Connor Metcalfe (here under challenge from Keanan Bennetts) came close to giving his side early on and then to equalising just before the break.

Connor Metcalfe (here under challenge from Keanan Bennetts) came close to giving his side early on and then to equalising just before the break.

Both coaches made a change for the second period. Hürzeler made an attacking substitution with the introduction of striker Andreas Albers for Aljoscha Kemlein, while Nils Döring bolstered his defence with Sascha Mockenhaupt for Thijmen Goppel. The pressure on that defence continued after the restart. A long-range effort from Smith five minutes in flew well over, but 60 seconds later the back of the Wiesbaden net was bulging, and it was new man Albers with his first competitive goal for the club who was responsible. The Dane played a one-two with Irvine before beating Stritzel, who appeared to be expecting a square ball, from an acute angle.

One more goal was now needed to go back in front of Kiel, while the home side also had to score again because Rostock had taken the lead against Paderborn almost simultaneously and moved above them in the table. The noise levels inside the stadium went up a notch when Prtajin went to ground in the penalty area under challenge from Karol Mets. As in the first half with Eggestein, however, Aytekin neglected to point to the spot, much to the annoyance of Wiesbaden coach Döring on the touchline. Aytekin produced the red card and Döring had to watch the rest of the proceedings from the stands. Soon after, Oladapo Afolayan was denied by a last-ditch lunge from Mockenhaupt. And at the other end, Vasilj thwarted Prtajin yet again from 18 metres.

The scorelines elsewhere ensured it remained a high-intensity affair that ebbed and flowed. Hürzeler made a second change in the 64th minute, throwing on Danel Sinani for Lars Ritzka. Sinani slotted in straightaway with an excellent corner that Irvine headed wide of the target. The Boys in Brown then fashioned several decent chances in quick succession. First, Metcalfe crossed from the left towards Eggestein, who came within a whisker of connecting. Soon after, Stritzel produced another good save to deny Afolayan before a Smith effort from the resulting corner took a decisive deflection on its way towards goal. Then the news came through that Rostock had conceded the equaliser against Paderborn, putting Wiesbaden back in 16th place as the game entered the final quarter of an hour.

Up in Hannover, Kiel continued to lead 2-0, leaving the Boys in Brown still a goal short of the championship title. Hürzeler made another substitution, Scott Banks entering the fray for Johannes Eggestein to make his first appearance after 261 days out with injury. The Scotsman had only just come on when he had a decisive hand in the go-ahead goal from Danel Sinani. Vasilj hit a long ball to Afolayan on the left, and his cross was headed back by Banks to Sinani, who smashed the ball into the bottom-right corner of the net from the edge of the box. Stritzel had been brilliant all afternoon but not even he could keep the half-volley out.

The goal saw the Boys in Brown overtake Kiel in the table and that was the way it stayed. Wiesbaden rallied one last time but the Hürzeler XI stood firm to top off an outstanding campaign with a 2-1 win and the league title!

SV Wehen Wiesbaden

Stritzel - Angha, Mathisen, Vukotić - Bennetts (Günther 75'), Fechner (Taffertshofer 75'), Heußer, Goppel (Mockenhaupt 46') - Kovačević (Lee 63') - Agrafiotis (Iredale 57'), Prtajin

Head coach: Nils Döring


FC St. Pauli

Vasilj - Wahl, Smith, Mets - Saliakas, Irvine, Kemlein (Albers 46'), Ritzka (Sinani 64') - Metcalfe, Eggestein (Banks 78'; Boukhalfa 89'), Afolayan (Dźwigała 89')

Head coach: Fabian Hürzeler


Goals: 1-0 Kovačević (11'), 1-1 Albers (51'), 1-2 Sinani (82')

Yellow cards: Goppel – Sinani

Red card: Wiesbaden coach Döring (unsportsmanlike conduct 56')

Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Oberasbach)

Attendance: 15,000 (sold out)


Photos: Witters