Thursday , May 23 2024

FC St. Pauli are back in the Bundesliga!

FC St. Pauli are back in the Bundesliga after a gap of 13 years thanks to a more than deserved 3-1 home win over VfL Osnabrück on Sunday, May 12 afternoon. Oladapo Afolayan set his side on the road to victory in the 7th minute in front of an ecstatic full house before second-half goals from Afolayan and Marcel Hartel kicked off a jubilant promotion party at the Millerntor. A late Lars Kehl penalty for the visitors almost went unnoticed among the celebrations.

After the 1-0 defeat in the derby, head coach Fabian Hürzeler made three changes to his side for the visit of VfL Osnabrück, fit-again Eric Smith, Lars Ritzka and Elias Saad returning to the starting lineup in place of Manolis Saliakas (one-match ban), David Nemeth and Aljoscha Kemlein (both bench). His counterpart Uwe Koschinat made four adjustments to the Osnabrück team that lost 4-0 to FC Schalke 04 in the week. The position going into the game was clear – with Fortuna Düsseldorf drawing 1-1 at Holstein Kiel last night a draw against the visitors, who were relegated on Tuesday evening, would be enough to secure promotion to the Bundesliga for the sixth time in the club’s history.

The Boys in Brown set the tone from the start and soon fashioned the opening chance of the game with some fine pressing that enabled Jackson Irvine to collect the ball just outside the Osnabrück box and feed Elias Saad in the left channel. He set his sights on the far post, but his side-footed effort drifted a good metre wide. Soon after, the Millerntor erupted for the first time. Lars Ritzka played a one-two with Irvine and then dispatched a low ball into the middle for Oladapo Afolayan to give his side an early lead from close range.

Five minutes later, Connor Metcalfe picked out Johannes Eggestein in the box from the right and his ball in found Saad at the back stick. Unfortunately, the No26 was unable to direct his header on target. It remained one-way traffic and when a corner was only half-cleared Eggestein had a go from just outside the box, but Osnabrück keeper Philipp Kühn got down low to gather.

The visitors created their first opportunity in the 19th minute when former St. Pauli man Christian Conteh delivered the ball into the middle. It flew past friend and foe alike and then rebounded narrowly wide of the left-hand upright off Robert Tesche. The game ebbed and flowed and after Florian Kleinhansl had blocked an Eggestein effort, Noel Niemann came close to equalising with an angled drive from the edge of the area that flew just wide of the far post.

A brief lull in the action followed before Saad beat Bashkim Ajdini on the left and unloaded from just outside the box, but Kühn got down quickly to save at his near post. Four minutes later, Marcel Hartel dragged a shot wide from 20 metres. Back at the other end, Niemann got away down the left and his intended cross proved extremely dangerous, looping over the head of Nikola Vasilj and coming down a whisker past the far post.

The Boys in Brown stepped up a gear before the interval and Eggestein tried his luck from range, but the shot was too centrally placed to trouble Kühn. Hartel then pulled a shot wide and Metcalfe struck a half-volley over the top from a Saad cross.

Both sides emerged unchanged for the second half and the Boys in Brown continued to dictate the proceedings after the restart. The first half-chance fell to Eric Smith, whose long-range effort flew a couple of metres over the top. Osnabrück sat back for the most part and struggled to escape the brown-and-white stranglehold. Whenever they did, they failed to find a way through the solid St. Pauli rearguard. At the other end, Hartel found the advancing Irvine at the near post from a corner, and his header took a decisive deflection wide. And then the crowd were let out a cry of frustration when a Metcalfe curler flew just wide of the left-hand upright from 25 metres.

That frustration made way for unbridled joy within 120 seconds when Hartel crossed from the left to Eggestein in the middle and he knocked it on for Irvine. The skipper had the chance to make it 2-0 but was unable to make contact with the ball. No matter, because a grateful Afolayan was waiting behind him to beat Kühn from eight metres and double the advantage. With promotion edging ever closer, a raucous “That’s the way we like it” rocked the Millerntor for minutes on end. The atmosphere inside the ground was simply outstanding, but it was to get ever better! Saad hit the turbo button in the centre of the part and knocked the ball out to Afolayan on the right, and his perfectly weighted cross was headed home off the inside of the left-hand post by Hartel to make it 3-0 with 68 minutes gone.

Buoyed by the magnificent atmosphere, the Boys in Brown continued to push but were unable to add another goal. That proved immaterial in the end, though, as did a late penalty strike from Lars Kehl for the visitors. Moments later, referee Martin Petersen blew the final whistle to spark a massive pitch invasion that saw the home fans celebrating the sixth promotion in the club’s history with the players.

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