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Fireworks, 1000 cops & a 70-yr record: How St Pauli humbled Hamburg even in derby defeat

HAMBURG - It could have been a disastrous evening for Hamburger SV while also a legendary ditto for visitors St. Pauli, when the city rivals clashed at the Volksparkstadion Friday night. A win would have seen the latter celebrating promotion under the noses of their most bitter rivals, while at the same time making sure the home side missed out on their promotion yet again.

In the end, Hamburger SV, or simply HSV, held their nerve and avoided the ultimate embarrassment with a focused and disciplined display, thus remaining in the run for a playoff-spot themselves. Had the season delivered more of what they put on display Friday night, surely more would have possible instead of looking into what will most likely turn out to be a seventh season in the season tier.

At least they prevented their noisy neighbours from celebrating in their back yard. History had already been made though before kick-off, where the Tannoy speaker wasted his breath by urging visiting fans not to light up the pyro's. They had every intention of making their mark quickly, though. It led to the game being halted just three minutes in which, one suspects, was always the intention of the fans who are renowned for their often rebellious stance towards the establishment.

Hamburger SV were once part of the establishment, not just in Germany but internationally as well as a former winner of European trophies. 41 years ago, they even lifted the Champions Cup, but have now spent six years in the 2. Bundesliga. It hurts, but not as much as seeing their city rivals from St. Pauli being successful. As if it wasn't enough that the two clubs have played in the same division for six straight years, which they have never done before.

It is most likely about to change, but HSV made sure it didn't happen Friday night as they grabbed the game by its throat after the smoke had cleared and the game restarted. They went close in the opening minutes, and coach Steffen Baumgart with his trademark six-pence had his team playing a little more aggressive than his counterpart in the Pauli dugout.

Having been sacked by Cologne, Baumgart came in as a saviour earlier this year with HSV going stale under Tim Walter, but it has been a disappointing entry for Baumgart, a declared HSV supporter. Whereas the team under Walter at least scored goals, but just conceded too many, the goals have largely stopped since Baumgart took over while they haven't stopped conceding.


First time in 70 years

It has had the consequence that St. Pauli in the previous round confirmed they would finish a season above HSV in the table. The first time in 70 years that has happened! No way, HSV were about to allow St. Pauli to add a promotion party at the Volkspark to their name this season.

For the local derby, HSV were banking on star striker Robert Glatzel. Often the saviour in past seasons, the topscorer has suffered under the new playing style, but finally checked in with two goals in the previous round. He looked to have got the opener in the 23rd minute when a rare opening in the Pauli defence led to a sneaky goal from Glatzel.

Much to the dismay of the HSV fraternity, Pauli was instead awarded what appeared to be a very dubious freekick. Had this not been a big city rivalry with much at stake, it probably would have stood. St. Pauli saw out the first half with more shots and more possession, practising a solid block of 5-3-2 when HSV had the ball and what looked like an almost 5-0-5 when on the ball as if coach Hürzeler was trying to bridge the midfield entirely.

While more on the ball, they never looked as dangerous as HSV in the first half as the home side also saw an attempt hit the post before the first half fizzled out. But why is St. Pauli suddenly better than HSV?

"Because they have had a coach now for 18 months who has simply made the players better. HSV haven't had that for years," Simon Braasch of local newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost told Tribalfootball. Braasch has reported on HSV for more than 10 years and seen the steady decline first hand. A decline only made worse this season - and not only as their locals arch-rivals seem to be going up.


St. Pauli success hurts

Most likely, Holstein Kiel, an even smaller club in the North look likely to join them. Braasch refutes though, that Holstein Kiel matters. "People here don't care, but it hurts seeing Pauli be successful," he states as the home crowd does theirs to push the team forward in the second half.

The Pauli supporters might have claimed first blood with their pyro-show, but winner on the terraces this evening was surely the HSV faithful. They weren't rewarded with much entertainment after the break, though, as both sides clearly knew how important the first goal would be.

Neither managed to dominate in the second half and St. Pauli all in all rarely gave proof of how much their young coach has improved the results since taking over in the first weeks of 2023. But he has, and Fabian Hürzeler seem destined for bigger jobs in a not-too-distant future. For now, though, he is about to lead the cult-club into the 1. Bundesliga for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

He wasn't able to celebrate Friday night though as HSV finally managed the breakthrough. Going into the second half, the home-side knew that their closest rival in the battle for a playoff-spot, Fortuna Düsseldorf, were winning 2-0 at half-time. Thus, anything but a win would guarantee another season in the 2. Bundesliga. With five minutes left on the clock, the aforementioned Glatzel put a header in the back on the net following a fifth corner for HSV.

Having already had two goals ruled out, tension was big but this one didn't even go to VAR and pandemonium ensued. In injury-time HSV even had time to miss a penalty for which Pauli player Saliakas was presented with his second yellow card of the evening.


1000 police officers had quiet night

Should the season pan out with St. Pauli going up and HSV staying, as things look right now, it will be the first time ever they will be play in a higher division than HSV, to which club legend and current Vice-president Bernd Wehmeyer in an interview with German football magazine Kicker stated before the game, "We have to concede that St. Pauli are currently one step ahead of us from a sporting perspective".

Wehmeyer was part of the team that won the Champions Cup on a hot night in Athens against Juventus back in 1983 and he is longing to see his club back in the limelight. For now, he'll have to settle with the fact that his team at least avoided the absolute humiliation of seeing St. Pauli promoted in the Volksparkstadion.

That could have led to a fair share of the supporters turn either mental or suicidal and the authorities took no chances, calling upon the services of 1000 police-men and -women. They will have experienced much tougher scenes than the ones they were presented with Friday night.

After all, the losers on the evening were able to walk home, safe in the knowledge that promotion is probably just around the corner anyway, while supporters of the home side could at least look back on a derby in which they weren't let down by their team. Any football fan will take both scenarios on the night.

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Jacob Hansen


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