It’s been a nice couple of weeks for St. Pauli’s fans in Berlin. They got to enjoy a comprehensive victory over 1. FC Union last week, and then this Sunday saw their under 23’s play BAK 07. Naturally, there was plenty of Pauli in attendance. There always are. They come out like worms in the rain, hearing the thudding of “Hells Bells” on the lawn above them. They wriggle out of every lawn in town.
This is not necessarily meant as a put down. St. Pauli attracts fans from all over the world for good reason, but not necessarily just because they have the coolest badge. They are the brown Man. Utd., the seedier Celtic. That their fans almost outnumbered BAK’s is no real surprise, but those that made it might not have been expecting quite such a fantastic game of football.
And it was a fantastic game, full of defensive weaknesses, attacking guile and the sight of the Pauli manager screaming himself hoarse on a touchline swathed in autumnal sunshine in front of a few hundred football fans. They were blinking away hangovers as they looked at the beautiful colours on the trees behind the old terracing of the Poststadion. They were rubbing their eyes at a superb comeback from BAK before a last snatched winner for the visitors.
BAK missed Rocco Teichmann, that is for sure. He is their bulwark at the back, a constant yelling presence with a ponytail. He sat in the stand to my right, a Robocop-style packing on his right leg telling its own story. He will be out until after the Winterpause.
St. Pauli started off the brighter team with the impressive Christopher Braun full of running at right back, but with Björn Brunnemann in midfield pulling the strings, and making lung bursting runs forward, there was a constant ebb and flow to the game. It swelled like the ocean, with both teams desperate to make the breakthrough. There was a certain inevitability that it would come first for Pauli, as Braun danced down the right hand side. He squared simply into a crowded penalty box where the ball squeezed through to Rouwen Hennings. It was probably fair, but BAK had had chances of their own such as when the lone striker, Paul van Humbeeck, latched onto a through ball after some neat work by Brünneman and Wemmer in the middle.
He screwed his shot wide, and thoughts turned to the top scorer Benjamin Gaudian sat on the bench. He would get his chance, but before they knew it, within minutes of the re-start it was 2-0 to St. Pauli. There was still a queue at the bar as Mouhaman Fousseni Alassani was lining up to score. His original shot bounced back off a despairing BAK lunge after his lovely close control in the box. He didn’t need a third chance and finished emphatically. It was cruel, but Alassani would deserve it. He got better and better as the game wore on – a driving, twisting dervish of energy, skill and power.
The game then exploded. After Henning Lichte had pulled the first goal back for BAK, it was end to end. Chance by chance, both teams striving for a decisive outcome. Hennings found himself again through on goal, but a superb diving save from Patrick Sobtzik thwarted him.
Ali Avcioglu had been running all day, he had taken every opportunity to carry the game to St. Pauli, and deserved his goal, the equaliser for 2-2, but there was still more. Pauli hit the post, BAK won a free kick just outside the box, Pauli put a shot wide, BAK got a succession of corners. It was that kind of a game.
When the substitute Kevin Weidlich reeled away, celebrating his winner at the death of the match it was no real surprise. BAK had given their all to drag themselves back into an engrossing contest, but it simply wasn’t to be. It seemed, despite the comeback; almost as inevitable as the yellow card dished out for Brunnemann near the end – it was his 8th in 9 games.
The St. Pauli fans celebrated their win; BAK’s wondered what the hell had just happened. I muttered to myself through a hangover that had been forgotten about for the last 90 minutes, and walked back towards the beautiful seasonal colours. If only football was always this good.
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