FC St. Pauli conceded a late 1:1 equaliser against 1. FC Nürnberg, losing two points they thought were safe and possibly losing out on the promotion battle. This is so disappointing that there is currently only a leaden emptiness.
(Cover picture: Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images/via OneFootball)
“Timo, your statement on the game?” – “We lost 1:1 today”Timo Schultz at the post-match press conference
Usually, the coaches use the opening statement at the post-match press conference to describe the match from their point of view and say what worked, what didn’t and their general impression. In doing so, they also like to give a certain direction. Timo Schultz decided to make what is probably the shortest opening statement since he became a football coach. It could not have been more fitting.
Although I am still in Corona quarantine and could not be at the Millerntor again, it was a perfect evening until shortly before the end: FC St. Pauli dominated 1. FC Nürnberg played a good game and deservedly took the lead. And then suddenly the results on the other courts also matched: Holstein Kiel turned the game around at Werder Bremen, Sandhausen equalised against Schalke. A few minutes later, all that remained of it was probably one of the most painful losses of points I have ever experienced.
No Philipp Ziereis, no Guido Burgstaller, no Etienne Amenyido, no Adam Dźwigała, no Marcel Hartel, no Jackson Irvine. With Finn Ole Becker, Leart Paqarada, Jakov Medić and Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, only four outfield players who started against Darmstadt last week were again on the pitch from the start against Nürnberg.
Newcomers were Lukas Daschner, Maximilian Dittgen, Luca Zander, Afeez Aremu, James Lawrence and Christopher Buchtmann. What was also new was what FC St. Pauli showed in the build-up play. Although the basic formation of a 4-4-2 with a diamond remained, the principles and positional play were changed and were very well adapted to the FCN.
Compared to the 2:4 loss against Sandhausen the previous week, 1. FC Nürnberg made three changes: Johannes Geis, Florian Hübner and Pascal Köpke replaced Taylan Duman, Nikola Dovedan and Mats Møller Dæhli. The latter, however, was on hand and was greeted with great applause at the Millerntor. These personnel changes were accompanied by a change in formation. FCN lined up in a 5-3-2 against FC St. Pauli.
A response to the back of three
Even before the game, there were indications that the FCN would play with a three-man backline against FCSP and thus deviate a little from their usual formation. “We wanted to stand a little deeper and create switching moments,” explained FCN coach Robert Klauß after the match. From his point of view, that worked “well” at the beginning of the game. In my opinion, however, this was more because FC St. Pauli had to work their way into the changed style of play and the formation of the opponent.
After about ten minutes, it became increasingly clear which match plan would work better: FC St. Pauli took control of the game. Even though Klauß said afterwards that the deep positioning of his team had “been part of the plan”, I find it hard to imagine that this was what he had in mind. Because offensively his team offered very little, it was FCSP’s inaccuracies, not FCN’s good defensive work, that kept the nil for a long time.
Deep drawing tens
FC St. Pauli offered much more. And much of it was new. The build-up play of FC St. Pauli was changed somewhat and these readjustments had an effect: Christopher Buchtmann often dropped from his half position in the build-up to the left-back position. This allowed Leart Paqarada to push very high and Nürnberg found no answer to this movement. This was also because Lukas Daschner defined his position as a striker quite differently than, for example, Burgstaller or Makienok do. Roughly summarised, one almost has to say that FCSP did not play with two strikers and a ten, but with one striker and two tens.
Because as soon as FCN reacted to Buchtmann’s movement by having a player follow him from the centre, Kyereh and Daschner showed a follow-up movement: They dropped from their high position into the centre of midfield and usually found larger spaces there. Since FCN coach Klauß likes to call his tens “wide” because they often overload the wings, I would call the movements of Daschner and Kyereh “deep”. In any case, there was a lot of rotation in the centre of midfield, which Nuremberg could not cope with due to its somewhat strong man orientation.
The result was another game in which FC St. Pauli had enormous possession and became more pressured by the minute. The longer the game went on, the better the processes with Buchtmann in the “Toni-Kroos role” and the many rotations in the centre, which were still a little ponderous at the start of the game, took hold. Smaller adjustments in the run-up behaviour (Daschner and Dittgen ran the outside centre-backs, not the eights or outside-backs, as it was at the start of the game) led to the FCNs build-up play coming to a complete standstill. The long balls that the FCN then played to Pascal Köpke and Lukas Schleimer were an expression of a lack of a plan, as both are unsuited to the role of a wall player.
Something was missing
But the truth is that it was almost a kind of déjà vu. Just like last week against Darmstadt, FCSP was only able to create very few compelling goal-scoring chances despite having a lot of possession and despite having the upper hand. In my opinion, this was due to the lack of a classic penalty area striker. Especially in the first half, the ball ran very well into the final third, but there was a lack of sufficient possession in the penalty area. Yes, Guido was missing, no question about that. I’d like to write something else, but that’s just how it was. He’s been in every game so far this season and maybe his teammates now had to get used to the fact that the box is not as well manned without him.
Only with the substitution of Igor Matanović did this line-up change somewhat. While quite a few would have liked to see Simon Makienok on the pitch earlier, I thought Matanović was just right, as he both occupies the box well, but also goes a lot of ways around it and thus comes very close to Burgstaller’s style of play – albeit with the “small” difference that Guido has scored 18 goals this season and Matanović, unfortunately, has not yet scored a single one. Nevertheless, this change increased the pressure on FCN once again.
Just don’t go into the centre!
Back again to the first 45 minutes: Afeez Aremu was booked very early and two more fouls from him, which were harmless, if at all, led to his substitution at the end of the first half. No matter what you think of the refereeing decisions: If you are honest, this change actually did FCSP’s game some good.
Because FCN completely avoided the centre of midfield in the build-up, instead frequently moved outwards with its two eights (going wide, of course). That actually makes sense, because FCSP is understaffed on the outside due to its midfield pack (Paderborn did that very well, for example). But FCSP pushed very well with their eights and could control these movements. As a result, the FC St. Pauli six was virtually without a job in the defensive work. And Aremu was more or less robbed of his strengths as a result. The substitution of Rico Benatelli then did FC St. Pauli’s offensive play a lot of good, as the team was able to take even more risks due to his ball security.
FC St. Pauli then became more forceful in the second half. First, Becker hit a ball against the post, then Buchtmann, among others, had further good chances. Then came a challenge that even FCN coach Klauß judged to be against the rules: Kyereh converted the penalty ice-coldly and the lead was highly deserved at that point.
A script from limbo
Just moments before, there was also good news from another place: Holstein Kiel had equalised against Bremen. The live table gave me a friendly smile. FC St. Pauli missed the second goal (again), was terribly inaccurate (again) in the switching moments and so the opponent stayed in the game (again). But the team was still in the lead and around ten minutes before the end Dennis Diekmeier scored the equaliser against Schalke. Everything, really everything, went in favour of FC St. Pauli in those minutes.
So while the results on the other courts were turned “Pro FCSP”, FCN went “all-in” with the substitution of Duman and Schäffler. Nevertheless, there was nothing to suggest that this move would pay off. FC St. Pauli had defended too solidly in the 80 minutes before. It smelled more like 2:0 than a Nuremberg goal. At the latest when Kiel took the lead against Bremen (85th), I should have become sceptical. That was really going too well. Because one thing is really certain: that tragedy knows St. Pauli. First Terodde scored in Sandhausen to give Schalke the lead, and then what always happens in the final minutes when you don’t close the bag beforehand: FCN suddenly started to play offensively. In injury time, it was bad ping-pong three times and the last bad action of this Nuremberg attack actually ended up in the net…
Shortly afterwards, the final whistle blew. Timo Schultz slumped on the pitch, badly hit. Bewilderment is probably the word that fits best. I stared dumbly at nothing for minutes. No anger. No sadness. No disappointment. Not a single emotion. The movements became slow and the thoughts tired. Everything became dull and heavy. From one moment to the next, the plug was pulled. FC St. Pauli loses 1:1 against Nuremberg and I’m not the only one who knows that a painful moment is burning in right now. Not because it already hurts, but because I know that at some point it will really hurt. But not yet. Now there is only emptiness.
What this and the two games before it have done, I’m sure I’ll have words for that at another time. Now we have to see what the rest do with this result. HSV plays Ingolstadt, who have already been relegated. Darmstadt receives Aue in the evening, who could also already be relegated at this point. Anything other than two wins for the favourites would be surprising. Then it would be the fifth place for FCSP. So if we know where we stand then, I’ll go looking for optimism. And find it, even if I can’t imagine it just yet. But shit, it’s not over until it’s over. As long as there is even a hint of a possibility, I will defiantly believe in it.
Keep moving forward!
//Tim (translation by Arne)