FC St. Pauli wins against Eintracht Braunschweig so convincingly that I have included a paragraph at the end of this text nagging about the fact that the game only ended 2-0. The game was already decided after less than 15 minutes, and a considerable class difference was noticeable on the pitch.
(Cover photo: imago images/via OneFootball)
FC St. Pauli had to make do without right-back Sebastian Ohlsson, who had been absent for some time, as well as James Lawrence, who had fallen ill. And since Lawrence’s regular replacement, Tore Reginiussen, was also out with illness, Adam Dźwigała found himself in the starting eleven (and fortunately someone else found himself there in the second half).
These defensive changes would have produced beads of sweat on my forehead a few weeks ago. Nowadays, that is no longer the case. FCSP has been too stable defensively of late. And nothing has changed in the formation with the midfield diamond.
On the other side, there was a whole series of changes. With Wiebe, Behrendt, Nikolaou, Ji and Kaufmann, five players who were in the starting eleven against Darmstadt were absent for various reasons. Probably because of this, Eintracht Braunschweig was forced to change the formation slightly: The 4-2-3-1 that had been played successfully recently gave way to a 3-5-2 in which Felix Kroos, somewhat surprisingly, did not move to the defensive midfield center back, but instead acted as a hanging point. Another possible explanation is that Eintracht Braunschweig tried to better absorb FCSP’s midfield, which is somewhat more possible with the 3-5-2, at least on paper, since Wydra, Kammerbauer, and Ben Balla could have taken on Zalazar, Kyereh, and Becker centrally. You notice I’m going into the subjunctive, because Eintracht Braunschweig’s performance was already pretty sobering. However, as Thomas Stickroth, the visitors’ stand-in coach and, as you know, also a former member of our functional team, told the press conference after the game, the plan was indeed “to cover the diamond 1:1 in midfield” – but he also says in the very next sentence that they “didn’t succeed very well”. That’s one way to put it.
Giving FCSP space – A bad idea
After all, what good is it that a 3-5-2 in deep pressing takes FCSP’s formation well if FCSP’s actually much more dangerous style of play is not countered to any degree? In the preliminary report at BlauGelbe-Datenwelt I had described the game of FCSP a little more detailed. An excerpt: “The attacking game of FC St. Pauli is characterized above all by enormous speed. As if that weren’t enough, players like Marmoush, Kyereh and Zalazar in particular are always successful with deep dribbles.” – I didn’t expect that description to fit FC St. Pauli’s first half so well. Eintracht Braunschweig didn’t seem prepared at all for this strength of FCSP and showed incredible gaps in defensive switching moments shortly after the start of the game and was at the mercy of FCSP’s strong counterpressing at times. This was quite remarkable, as Braunschweig had conceded only one goal in the last five games and especially the defense seemed to become one of the most important elements for a successful relegation fight. However, Eintracht Braunschweig was inadequately prepared for FC St. Pauli’s enormously strong transition game in terms of defending at the back.
Instead, I sat in front of the computer at 20:38 and shouted, “Marmoush! Tempo!” – Yes, once FCSP picks up speed, it is quite difficult to defend. Omar Marmoush, in particular, should have been tagged there by every opposing analyst as ” don’t give room for deep dribbles”. In the seventh minute, Marmoush got that space. There followed one, two, three times “dance samba with me” with counterpart Klaß and then off the cherry (translator’s note: I belive that means “take a shot on goal”). If he can wiggle out his opponents like that, then I would also like to have the hip problems that Marmoush had during the week according to Timo Schultz.
Eintracht Braunschweig had no, really no access at all to the players of FC St. Pauli in the first 20 minutes. Due to the many personnel changes and the change of system, they seemed simply overwhelmed by FCSP. It was more than a difference in league.
On the other hand, the joy of playing just bubbled out. Especially the agility of Rico Benatelli in those first minutes was impressive. According to sofascore, Rico Benatelli delivered a whopping 76 passes to his teammates, which corresponds to a rate of over 90%. And in contrast to many other performances, it wasn’t mostly just crosses or back passes, no, Benatelli pushed the build-up play forward very often despite the tight space.
And it was then another turnover moment that FC St. Pauli took advantage of in the 14th minute to score their second goal. And again Eintracht Braunschweig has to ask itself how such an open position can happen against FC St. Pauli. That simply can’t be allowed to happen. But I don’t want to badmouth FCSP’s performance here at all. Because the ball wins and the fast switching, but also the pass security were really, really good. The 2-0 by Daniel-Kofi Kyereh after a quarter of an hour was highly deserved.
While Eintracht Braunschweig only became noticeable due to a borderline harsh intervention by Kroos against Benatelli, Omar Marmoush had already put a header against the post from close range. Kroos picked up a yellow card, which I give the attribute “at least”.
As a result, the game calmed down noticeably. With the lead behind them, FCSP was able to focus even more on switching moments, while Eintracht Braunschweig impressively showed that, with 23 goals, they have the weakest offense in the league so far.
Only five shots on goal in the first half – Still a convincing performance
Quite remarkable: FC St. Pauli only fired five shots on goal after 45 minutes. That’s actually a pretty weak showing. But Eintracht Braunschweig can consider themselves lucky not to go into the break with four or even five goals conceded. Because all of the shots on goal were crystal-clear scoring opportunities. After the two goals, Marmoush hit the aforementioned header against the post, Burgstaller failed to hit the empty net after a great combination with Kyereh, and Benatelli showed once again that free-standing scoring opportunities in the back are not (yet) his specialty. Be that as it may, we’re talking about a deserved 2-0 lead at halftime.
FCSP also comes out of the break better than Braunschweig: Zalazar, Burgstaller and Marmoush could have already provided the preliminary decision in the first ten minutes.
That Braunschweig no longer even believed in winning a point itself was evident at the latest in the 65th minute with the substitution of head of defense Oumar Diakhite to protect him from the fifth yellow card (next matchday comes the enormously important match against Osnabrück).
As the second half progressed, it became apparent that it wasn’t just the turnover moments that FCSP used to create good offensive action. FCSP played diagonal sideshifts relatively often in order to put maximum horizontal pressure on Braunschweig’s three-man defense. And since Braunschweig pressed in a 3-5-2 and did not permanently form a back five defensively, these spaces were definitely there and the lateral shifts often created danger. In addition, FCSP showed some more variability in midfield, with Rodrigo Zalazar swapping positions with Finn Ole Becker in the first half. Kyereh was to be found on the left side much more often than recently and if I were meticulous, I would even describe FCSP’s offensive formation as more of a 4-3-3 as a result, with Marmoush and Kyereh as wingers. Slight changes were also noticeable in the build-up: Rico Benatelli was much more involved in the game (or to put it actively: he understood his role much more as a deep playmaker than in the games before). He often dropped in front of the opposing forwards and picked up the balls deep (possibly also due to the absence of Lawrence). At times, Becker and Zalazar also offered themselves deep in the half-areas of their own half and were thus also able to create an advantage centrally, as Benatelli was thus able to advance and was addressable. Braunschweig’s deep order and the man-oriented focus of Ben Balla and Kammerbauer opened up space for him in this regard. Thus, FCSP added a facet to their build-up play (may also be that this opening was tried in the games before, but I noticed it for the first time yesterday). Good for us, bad for the upcoming opponents.
It was really good how confident FCSP was on the ball. Throughout the game, we didn’t allow Braunschweig a single prolonged period of pressure, were always able to escape Braunschweig’s grip well and actually always had it ourselves. That was really convincing and I have to admit that after the game against Osnabrück I wrote something enthusiastic about the dominance of FCSP. Against Braunschweig, however, they stepped it up a notch. In these two games, FC St. Pauli dominated like it hasn’t for a long, long time and showed that there are considerable gaps in class in the 2.Liga, which is actually famous for its balance. This is extremely unusual from FCSP’s point of view, but I find it all the more awesome.
For the final 20 minutes, FCSP substituted Lukas Daschner for the yellow-carded Kyereh and Maximilian Dittgen as the second top player next to Burgstaller. At this point, Marvin Knoll had already been on the pitch for ten minutes. He replaced Adam Dźwigała in central defense after around an hour.
Daschner had the third goal on his foot seconds after his substitution, but failed to beat Fejzic. Shortly after, Ziereis lost the ball in the forward movement and thus allowed Braunschweig’s biggest chance up to that point. And then my head started spinning.
Make it 3-0 for once!
Admittedly: It’s complaining at a very high level. But FC St. Pauli could easily put the lid on such games, in which they are vastly superior, early on and score the third goal. For the seventh time in the last twelve games, FCSP led 2-0 midway through the second half and was highly superior at times. All of these games were won, so there is really no reason to nag. BUT… in five of these seven games, the opponent scored at least the final goal (Darmstadt and Hannover even equalized) and it was a nail-biter.
And against Braunschweig, too, the “only” two-goal lead made it a game that could have tipped over at any time if the opponent somehow slipped a ball in. That would have been absolutely lucky and undeserved, especially from Braunschweig’s point of view, but there were definitely situations where they could have scored the tying goal, while FCSP left some chances on the other side (xG according to fivethirthyeight at 3.3 to 0.7, which should have defended FCSP’s lead as the league’s best offense according to xG).
The view also coincides with that of Timo Schultz, who said after the game, “When I sit here and get angry about the way the game went in the 2-0 win, you can see we’re on the right track.”
No matter. These are real luxury problems I’m writing about here. FC St. Pauli wins in convincing fashion against a weak Eintracht Braunschweig. Especially when you compare it to the first leg, you notice how enormously broad FCSP’s chest is by now, how incredibly well this team has developed in the meantime, how stable it is and how it can play its game down. That’s just great when I think about how I looked at the last two matchdays against Osnabrück and Braunschweig weeks ago and thought these were enormously important games in the fight to stay in the class. That the FCSP after these two games with now 38 points on the account and twelve points ahead of the relegation place the class preservation has almost sure, I had not expected. Now to be in the stadium for games like this, it would be close to perfection!