St. Pauli Hinrunde Review: Crunch time for strugglers St. Pauli

The season hasn't gone to plan for St. Pauli.

The season hasn’t gone to plan for St. Pauli.

It’s fair to say that this season hasn’t gone the way St. Pauli would’ve expected, their struggles sees them second from bottom and on their third head coach of the season. Strange for a side that has regularly finished in the top half of the 2.Bundesliga since getting promoted in 2006-07, while also having a season in the Bundesliga in 2010-11. However things may be looking up for the Hamburg club.

Last season St. Pauli were consistently in the the top six and rarely dropped below that, however a poor end to the season saw them finish the campaign in eighth place. I for one thought they would get another top half of the table finish and perhaps improve on the eighth place finish, however unfortunately last season’s performances haven’t occurred as often as they would’ve liked. In the summer the club lost Michael Gregoritsch, the youngster returning to his parent club Hoffenheim, he was a useful addition to the squad with fifteen appearances. Kevin Schindler made the same amount of appearances and contributed with two goals, he left for 3.Liga side Wehen Wiesbaden, other departures were defender Florian Mohr and the biggest departure of them all saw Fin Bartels leave on a free to Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Bartels was a key player last season, making twenty-seven league appearances and finishing as the club’s top scorer with seven goals from midfield.

After those departures the club brought in Lasse Sobiech on loan from Hamburg, the young defender returning to the club after leaving at the end of the 2011-12 season. Sobiech has instantly become an important part of the team, playing the most minutes this season, making sixteen appearances, scoring twice and even getting one assist. Another defender that was brought in was Daniel Buballa from Aalen, the 24-year-old has made eleven appearances so far this season, also coming in was Enis Alushi from Kaiserslautern, Michael Görlitz from FSV Frankfurt and Croatian striker Ante Budimir, who has only scored once since joining the club and that was in the DFB Pokal.

St. Pauli had a tremendous pre-season as they stayed unbeaten throughout the summer, highlights being a goalless draw with Udinese and beating Celtic 1-0. They managed to continue the run into the first game when they hosted Ingolstadt, Sören Gonther bagging himself a goal twelve minutes from time to earn his side a 1-1 draw. St. Pauli then travelled to Aalen who were tipped to struggle this season and it was a disappointing performance as Aalen sent St. Pauli packing after a 2-0 victory. Two victories followed the defeat to Aalen, a comfortable 3-1 victory in the cup against Oberliga side Optik Rathenow, an early and late goal was then enough for a 2-1 win over Sandhausen, Sobiech the hero with his goal two minutes into injury time.

It was an average start to the season and their fourth game of the season saw them fall victim to a Greuther Fürth side in the mood and they comfortably won 3-0, following this result Roland Vrabec was relieved of his duties and in came former player Thomas Meggle. The new manager effect didn’t work as St. Pauli lost Meggle’s first two games, a 2-1 defeat to 1860 Munich was followed by another 3-0 defeat, this time at the hands of bottom club Erzgebirge Aue, this was Aue’s first win of the season. Certainly not good results considering they are sides tipped to be fighting relegation. Meggle’s first win as head coach came at home against Eintracht Braunschweig, Sobiech scored the only goal of the game in the fifteenth minute. St. Pauli looked to have turned a corner in their season after drawing 3-3 with FSV Frankfurt, Dennis Daubescored late on to secure a point, St. Pauli then breezed past Union Berlin, goals from Christopher Nöthe, Marc Rzatkowski and John Verhoeksecured a 3-0 victory.

It wasn’t a sign of good things to come, instead it was the start of the misery. St. Pauli lost 1-0 to Fortuna Düsseldorf, Up next was Karlsruher where St. Pauli slumped to a 4-0 defeat, Borussia Dortmund then came to town for the DFB Pokal and St. Pauli failed to score once again as they lost 3-0. The losing streak was given a break as goals from Rzatkowski and Sebastian Maier gave St. Pauli and 2-1 lead against Nürnberg, unfortunately Jakub Sylvestr secured his second goal of the game in the eighty-seventh minute to earn his side a 2-2 draw. The heavy losses kept coming St. Pauli’s way, 2.Bundesliga newboys Heidenheim won 3-0 at the Millerntor-Stadion, St. Pauli were very disappointing once more when they travelled to Leipzig and lost 4-1 to RB Leipzig and a third loss in a row came at the hands of Kaiserslautern, who went away with a 3-1 win. The Hamburg club once again managed to stop their losing streak going to four in a row, however it was another draw, fortunately for the neutrals St. Pauli don’t seem to be doing boring draws this season and their game with Bochum produced another highly entertaining game which ended 3-3. A simple case of we score, you score, Verhoek opened the scoring just after the half hour mark, Philipp Ziereis then put the ball into his own net to make it 1-1, Daube scored before the break, then Stanislav Šesták levelled things, Maier made it 3-2 twenty minutes from time and then with nine minutes remaining of the game Tobias Weis popped up with a goal to round up the scoring. Meggle’s last game in charge of St. Pauli came against Darmstadt, the visitors snatched all three points thanks to Fabian Holland’s goal in the eighty-sixth minute.

Can Ewald Lienen lead St. Pauli away from danger?

Can Ewald Lienen lead St. Pauli away from danger?

After that defeat St. Pauli changed things up once more, in came the experienced Ewald Lienen, while Meggle replaced Rachid Azzouzi as sporting director. Lienen wasn’t given the easiest of games to make his St. Pauli debut, they travelled to Bavaria to face league leaders Ingolstadt. Mathew Leckie gave the hosts the lead after twenty-two minutes, Sebastian Schachten levelled things twelve minutes from time, only for Pascal Groß to score two minutes later to secure the win for Ingolstadt. Tough luck for St. Pauli, however they bounced back in fantastic fashion as they defeated Aalen 3-1, goals from Verhoek, Oliver Barth(Own Goal) and Lennart Thy gave St. Pauli a 3-0 lead before Fabio Kaufmann scored a late consolation goal. The victory was Lienen’s first in charge and ended a run of ten games without a win for St. Pauli, before the victory their last win came at the start of October against Union Berlin.

So far in the winter break St. Pauli have sold midfielder Bentley Baxter Bahn to 3.Liga side Stuttgarter Kickers and they’ve managed to bring in Julian Koch on loan from Mainz. So far St. Pauli haven’t been linked with anyone, however I would be surprised if they don’t look at bringing in a defender on loan to sure up a defence which has been very poor this season, the club haven’t done too bad in the goals department, however they have the worse defence in the league conceding thirty-nine goals, the next worse defence is FSV Frankfurt, who have conceded thirty-three goals. The first game from the winter break see’s St. Pauli travel to face Sandhausen, a side that are four points ahead of them.

St. Pauli will be happy to end their hinrunde with a victory and they’ll be hoping to build on that when league action returns. They’re a club that deserves to be challenging for promotion, however this season they’ll be happy to stay clear of the relegation places. They have a good manager with plenty of experience now in charge and he’s managed in a number of countries, Spain, Greece and even Romania. Lienen famously suffered a horrifying injury on 14 August 1981 against Werder Bremen, a challenge from Norbert Siegmann slit open his thigh and resulted in a deep wound of twenty-five cm, Lienen needed twenty-three stitches. After the challenege Lienen ran after Bremen coach Otto Rehhagel, blaming him for sending his players out to play rough. A tough man for a tough job and an appointment I think St. Pauli have got right after a couple of bad ones.

Article for VAVEL.

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