1 FC Köln 0-0 FC St. Pauli: Slow Start Continues for Two Pre-Season Favorites

Last-minute transfers Sascha Bigalke and Anthony Ujah delivered a much-needed infusion of energy on the offensive side of the ball for1. FC Köln, but it was FC St. Pauli keeper Philipp Tschauner who stole the show at Rheinenergiestadion in Monday night’s contest stealing a point for the cult club from Hamburg in a scoreless draw.

In St. Pauli, Köln boss Holger Stanislawski was, for the first time, facing his club of fifteen years, having played for St. Pauli from 1993 to 2004 and managed there from 2006 to 2011, a stretch which included a promotion to the Bundesliga. Despite the lengthy connection to the club, Stani was likely less interested in happy reunions than he was in earning his first victory since taking over his current position. The Billy Goats entered the Monday night match having scored just one goal on the season, that goal coming on a penalty shot.

St. Pauli has similarly failed to live up to expectations. While not starting quite as slowly as their hosts, Andre Schubert’s squad entered match day five with only five points, putting them solidly in the bottom half of the table.

Line-ups and Formations

1. FC Köln

Stanislawski made several changes to his line-up, while keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation he’s used exclusively thus far in his time at Köln.

Canadian veteran Kevin McKenna made his first start of the season, making him the third Kevin (Wimmer and Pezzoni) to pair with Dominic Maroh in the central defense. Maroh and Miso Brecko (right back) have played every minute of the season thus far for the Billy Goats. Christian Eichner completed the back line.

In the defensive midfield, Adam Matuschyk returned from injury to team with 22-year-old prospect Jonas Hector, who made his second consecutive start.

Thomas Bröker and Adil Chihi were tabbed to run on the wings with newcomer Bigalke making his debut in the center midfield position.

Ujah made his first appearance since his loan from Mainz as the lone attacker for the “Effzeh.”

FC St. Pauli

For the visitors, Schubert opted to use the same line-up as in match day four, which earned St. Pauli their first three-pointer of the season in a 2:1 victory over SV Sandhausen.

Markus Thorandt has long established himself as a regular in central defense for St. Pauli, while newcomer Florian Mohr seems to have claimed the job opposite Thorandt, making his fifth consecutive start since transferring from SC Paderborn. Another long timer in Hamburg, Jan-Philipp Kalla started at left back, while Christopher Avevor made his third consecutive start at right back since arriving on loan from Hannover.

Captain Fabian Boll paired with Dennis Daube as holding midfielders flanked by Fin Bartels and Florian Bruns, giving St. Pauli a familiar midfield group who have worked together dating back to the salad days of the 2010-11 season in the Bundesliga and, perhaps, contributing to the expectations weighed on this particular team to compete at the top of the table.

34-year-old Marius Ebers continues to figure in the attack for St. Pauli, despite not being able to repeat his 20 goal performance in the promotion season of 2009-10. Mahir Saglic made his second consecutive start in the attack.

The Match

FC Köln gave the 45,000 fans in attendance plenty about which to be optimistic in the early going, dominating possession and delivering three dangerous strikes in the first ten minutes of the match.

Bigalke, the new transfer from SpVgg Unterhaching nearly put the home side ahead in the sixth minute when he bent a hard shot from just outside the penalty area toward the near post, only to be denied by a terrific diving save by Tschauner. Minutes later, Bigalke found himself on the end of a pass from Ujah as he ran into the right side of the penalty area. Bigalke cut quickly to his left to avoid the defensive efforts of Kalla and leaving himself with just Tschauner between the ball and goal, but the shot deflected off the outstretched left arm of St. Pauli’s keeper and into the air, allowing time for Kalla to recover and help head the ball away from the goal.

Bröker continued the pressure shortly thereafter with a shot from about 20 feet outside the penalty area seemingly destined for the top corner of the net before Tschauner sprung again to the rescue, deflecting the ball over the crossbar.

Tschauner eventually got some help from the rest of the St. Pauli squad as the game settled into more of a mid-field battle, relieving the overwhelming early pressure of the opening salvo from the host team.

St. Pauli finally got their first shot on goal in the 37th minute when Saglic dribbled past three Köln defenders before putting a pass on the foot of Boll who had a clear view of Timo Horn and the goal, but Boll seemed to not connect cleanly with the shot, leaving Horn needing to make a fairly ordinary stop on his only challenge of the first half.

Shortly after the resumption of play, Bigalke tried his hand at play-maker, pushing a through ball into the path of Chihi, who had a clear run into the penalty area, but ultimately struck weakly, rolling the ball into the waiting arms of Tschauner.

Bartels made the first serious attempt on goal for St. Pauli in the 56th minute, accepting a pass outside the far left corner of the penalty area, turning and drilling a shot just wide of the outstretched hands of Horn but also the post. Bartels later figured in another great chance for St. Pauli, putting a ball at the feet of Saglic mere feet away from the goal with Horn scrambling to recover position, but Saglic was unable to control the pass and, hence, the potential game-winner slipped away from the guests.

The match closed with another ten minutes of dominance on the ball by the home team, but St. Pauli by then had settled into more of a defensive position and rallied around the effort of Tschauner to keep the score level.

Analysis

Does anyone ever really walk away from a scoreless draw completely happy?

FC St. Pauli can at least take satisfaction in earning a point on the road. The performance of Tschauner should also give the team confidence when they need to press forward for a goal knowing he is back there in case of a counter-attack. This could be extra important in St. Pauli’s next match, as FSV Frankfurt has scored in each of their matches thus far in the season.

Schubert has to be happy with the four points collected the last two matches with this particular starting line-up, but having been outshot 22-8 may cause him to wonder whether he’s really found his regular squad. The back line appeared to be completely undone when Köln decided to press for offensive chances, and this is a team who has yet to score a goal during the run of play. More successful offenses will likely look at today’s game and think they can like their chances of scoring by putting the pressure on that back four.

Getting the ball past Tschauner, however…that could be another story.

Stani, on the other hand, can’t be entirely thrilled with just the one point, but will likely be all smiles knowing he gets to write Sascha Bigalke’s name into the line-up Friday night at Union Berlin.

The insertion of Chihi rather than Christian Clemens was a bit puzzling, with Clemens having shown plenty of promise last season in Bundesliga play while Chihi has been largely inconsistent. Chihi’s play today was marred by horrible finishing when he was presented with opportunities to put the ball on net.

Also in question was Hector starting over Matthias Lehmann, who failed to appear for the second consecutive match after starting the first three. Hector played well enough today, and, let’s face it, the defensive midfield is not really the problem right now in Köln, but Lehmann was one of the few veterans added to the roster in an off-season of great turn-over.

Ujah did enough today to put himself in front of Chong Tese and Mikael Ishak, both of whom have been largely ineffective in their appearances this season, but strikers get paid to score. He looks the role, so he should get another start soon, if not this week.

Ultimately, Stani, his players, and Effzeh fans have to all be eager to see whether the team can expand on today’s performance to create more-sustained pressure on offense and have it translate into actual goals. Bigalke is going to be the name in the football-centered discussions around the Cathedral city this week, thanks to his exciting play today, but it’ll do everyone well to remember that, while he appears to be very talented, he is a very young (22) talent before saddling him with the hopes of a fan base desperate for a hero.

Final Verdict

St. Pauli is lucky to escape Köln with a point. The combination of disorganization in the back and lack of steam in the attack is not going to help build the point total and raise the team back to the top third of the table where fans reasonably expect them to be by season’s end.

As long as Köln is unable to finish, no amount of exciting, close chances will save them. Stani will likely continue to mix and match midfielders to find the right combination to remove the invisible barrier that sometimes seems to be in front of the goal they’re attacking. While the bottom line continues to disappoint, the team on the field today looked vastly superior to the one from the first four matches of the season, so there is reason for optimism here.

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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