The Millentor stadion was the site for the last match of the 2. Bundesliga season prior to winter break, as the two relegated Bundesliga sides, St. Pauli and Eintracht Frankfurt met for the second time this season. With 2. Bundesliga toppers Fortuna Düsseldorf losing at home Saturday to surprising SC Paderborn 07, both teams had the opportunity to make a statement of intent in Monday’s match. It was St. Pauli who made that statement, taking all three points at home by defeating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in their final meeting of the 2011-2012 season. The ‘buccaneers of the league” thus enter winter break tied on points with the Eagles and surprising SC Paderborn at 39 points, three behind league leading Fortuna Düsseldorf and one behind SpVgg Greuther Fürth. St. Pauli trail Frankfurt in goal differential, 24-17, but lead Paderborn in goal differential by two.
Both teams came into the match with a 1-1-1 mark in its last three matches– with Eintracht Frankfurt defeating Karlsruher, drawing with Greuther Fürth and losing to 1860 Munich, while St. Pauli downed Dynamo Dresden, drew with Paderborn and lost to lowly FC Ingolstadt.
Monday’s match did not match the excitement generated by Düsseldorf and Paderborn this past Saturday, but followers of St. Pauli around the world had to be happy with their big win. Their ability to shut out a potent Eagles’ attack featuring Theonfanis Gekas, Alexander Meier and Mohamadou Idrissou is certainly a positive they can take into their winter break in addition to the morale-boost of three points taken from Armin Veh’s side.
Gekas did not start for Eintracht Frankfurt, but entered the match midway through the first half, replacing the injured Karim Matmour. Prior to his injury Matmour had found teammate Alexander Meier with a throughball, but Meier could not convert from a tight angle against St. Pauli keeper Philipp Tschauner, who made another important save on Gordon Schildenfeld’s flick from a free kick by 241 year-old Pirmin Schwegler. A St. Pauli chance by an open Fins Bartels went for naught also.
But St. Pauli were able to get on the board just past the half hour mark. Captain Fabio Morena, who has missed much of the season with injury, scored his first goal of the season. Following Frankfurt’s inability to clear the ball from a corner kick after keeper Ola Nikolov had made the initial save, a free Morena at the far post saw the ball come to him and he responded with what ultimately was the game winner.
Taking their 1-0 lead into intermission, St. Pauli were buffered by an Eintracht Frankfurt side looking for an equalizer. Much of their attack seemed to funnel towards Gekas, but the Greek international could not beat Tschauner. After falling as if shot following contact with his back to the goal, Gekas had a possible break on goal called back from offsides and later worked a ball deep into the box in the 57th minute, but the angle was too tight. Idrissou also had a good shot stopped by Tschauner, but as Frankfurt looked to score, the cult club turned the tables on the visitors. A well placed outlet pass from Max Kruse allowed Bartels to run deep up the right flank, where he delivered a cross to the hustling Kruse, who beat Frankfurt defender Anderson to net past the defenseless Nikolov in the 67th minute. Veh brought on Caio, who unleashed a couple of long-distance shots, and Canadian international striker Rob Friend seeking a difference-maker, but his Frankfurt side, lacking in creativity, lost out on their chance to tie Dusseldorf on points atop the 2. Bundesliga table.
Kruse had an outstanding match for St. Pauli. He made the most intensive runs of any of his teammates while leading them in touches and passes in addition to scoring his 10th goal of the campaign. Frankfurt captain and Swiss international Schwegler led both teams with 109 touches, and completed 65 of 75 passes.
For Coach Andre Schubert and his St. Pauli players, Monday’s performance was a fine comeback following their loss to Ingolstadt last time out and a welcome way to finish up before winter break. The Eagles of Armin Veh will have six weeks to rue missed opportunities and their ability to earn only four points in their last four matches, not the pace necessary to gain promotion. With Fortuna Dusseldorf, SpVgg Greuther Furth and Paderborn experiencing strong seasons thus far and 1860 Munich and Union Berlin not impossibly far from the league leaders, the resumption of the 2. Bundesliga season on the first weekend of February, with only fifteen matchdays remaining, should be fascinating.