It does not take a statistician to see that Union have major problems defensively. Only five clean sheet in the league this season must make for depressing reading for Union's backroom staff. Uwe Neuhaus had uttered the classic refrain in his midweek press conference that it's common knowledge that 'you don't change a winning team' and after a defeat Neuhaus always rings the changes.
It was a surprise to see Christian Stuff on the bench as he made way for Schönheim / Kohlman - as Menz was also a casualty of the defeat in Cottbus against 10 men. One wonders if that match will play a crucial point in determining Union's fate this season.
Pauli came in to the game on the back of three straight wins and Neuhaus has talked up the visitors defensive capabilities whilst almost marveling at how well they have done of late - dragging themselves in to contention for a late challenge to the play-off spot. The Bundesliga 2 is a tight league and is impossible to call as most of those attempting to displace Kaiserslautern in 3rd are inconsistent. This was again demonstrated on Friday night as both Energie Cottbus and Frankfurt dropped much needed points against mid-table sides.
As is worryingly becoming the norm I had a few tasks to take care of prior to the game. The photography exhibition needed to be taken down so that the Eiserne Botschafter could use the room for a screening on Sunday night. I also had some tickets to shift and sold 2 tickets in Sektor 3 for less than the lad I was with had paid a tout for his solitary 'karte.' Love football hate ticket touts and all that. My journey to the 'other side' of Köpenick brought with it good fortune though, as when a mate turned up and informed me the Pauli team bus was parked outside the hotel opposite, I darted over, ignoring the red man much to the bemusement of the locals and gave the bus a small make-over. The manufacturers logo was now hidden by an 'Union in Englisch' sticker. All good fun.
|The Pauli team travel through Köpenick advertising the English fan club|
As we walked up the stairs at the Alte Försterei I heard Christian Arbeit say that Köpenich would 'stay red and white' and understood what he was on about when I saw one of the St.Pauli banners - 'Köpenick ist Braun und Weiss.' Again, all good fun. The atmosphere was up there with the best I have experienced pre-match at Union. Arbeit was unable to read out the Union team due to the incessant chanting from the home faithful. The place was unevenly packed with Sektor 3 (the gegengerade runs down one side of the ground) looking sparse at the corner near the visitors and overflowing into the aisles near the home end where we were situated next to a couple of St.Pauli fans decked out in their colours.
I'll apologise now for getting on my high-horse but it is stuff like this that makes going to watch Union special. Two blokes, sharing jokes with the home fans and completely at ease with wearing club colours surrounded by rival fans. There is of course a bond between the two clubs. However, it is moments like this that the media will never pick up on. Preferring to talk of an increase in fan violence and other such nonsense. The two sets of supporters had actually chartered a boat to arrive in Köpenick together - a 4 hour trip from Friedrichstraße on a cold March afternoon. Rather them than me! I'll wait until August when the Botschafter organise their annual trip along the Spree to the match.
The atmosphere had been cranked up for this one. The first time Fortress Försterei had been completely sold out since the building of the new stand. Over 21,000 were there to witness what transpired to be a pulsating duel. The game living up to expectations. Naturally the opening stages were tentative with both teams battling it out in the middle of the park. The game and party atmosphere that has become a regular occurrence when Union play on a Friday night, kicked into life bang on 20 minutes. I imagine the Pauli coach would have been pleased at the age old football mantra of going away from home and 'keeping it tight for the first 20 minutes' and wondering whether Pauli could extend their winning streak.
Simon Terodde, quickly becoming Union's star striker these days, was the man who broke the deadlock.
|Andrew Cherrie describes Union's opener as part of his excellent live Twitter coverage|
Mattuschka, a thorn in the side of St.Pauli this term was instrumental again and as the result suggests won the midfield battle. He was shackled, often by 3 Pauli midfielders, but appeared to always find that extra yard. He's a quick thinker and always a step ahead of the opposition - if not literally then certainly mentally. When in this sort of form he's a joy to watch. Play of this quality is not always part and parcel of the Bundesliga 2.
The live tweeting is always good when you've actually been to match. I always re-read the tweets and this next 'passage of tweets' shows clearly the passage of play that led up to Pauli's equaliser.
|Cherrie describes the build-up to the first Pauli equaliser|
The goal always looked likely. The defensive re-shuffle had not made Union appear anymore stable than usual. To give credit to St.Pauli they defend from the front and it was an evening devoid of time on the ball. Short, sharp and 'schnell' was the order of the day.
At 1-1 Union again put pressure on the visitors as they attacked the goal containing the noisy Pauli contingent. Union restored their lead just before half-time although Mattuschka almost contrived to miss what was a simple tap in. He hit the ball with such force that it flew into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar. His muted celebrations were perhaps more to do with playing his 'get of jail free card' than effortless nonchalance.
The game remained 2-1 until the 76th minute which saw a peculiar spell of 3 goals in a mere 7 minutes. The goals were always coming and it was simply a matter of which team would tire first. The money was on Union.
|Cherrie predicts the Nuehaus substitution|
The equaliser eventually came for St.Pauli in the shape of an absolute rocket from the full-back.
|2-2 heralds the start of a 7 minute goal fest|
Union seemed to discover the tank was unlike the beer sellers backpacks and in fact not quite empty. They immediately launched wave after wave of attack in an attempt to restore their lead for a third time. They were rewarded in front of the home end with young Nemec adding his name to the score sheet after Zoundi had fired spectacularly wide when only a few yards out and one on one with the keeper. It was again the mercurial Mattuschka who created the opening with a beautifully weighted ball slipped into the path of the Union striker. The Försterei was bouncing and the 3-2 win that had been predicted at half-time by our resident tweeter was looking good.
Union were not finished and even had time to substitute Mattuschka and replace him with Menz before adding to their goal tally. It was Terodde again who gave the scoreline a touch of class. A 4-2 win sounds comfortable. This was anything but. It was a hard fought victory and a very valuable 3 points as Union only have 3 home games remaining. Union won't finish 3rd due to their poor away form but bettering last term is certainly achievable. Terodde's goal was of his own making. He received the ball with his back to goal and held of his man whilst swiveling and unleashing an unstoppable shot. He kept it low and it sped past the keeper to make it 4-2. The game had certainly lived up to expectations both on and off the pitch.