One of the biggest rivalries in the North of Germany where the club’s ethos, identity and overall appearance is completely different. The port city of Hamburg plays host to it’s most significant Hamburg Derby for quite some time with both sides very much in the hunt for promotion to the Bundesliga. St. Pauli had been one of the surprise packages this season. Under Markus Kauczinski, St. Pauli find themselves in 4th position heading into Matchday 25 just a point adrift from Union Berlin.
Hamburger SV came into the derby in 2nd, level on points with Union Berlin but ahead on goal difference. Their form has been very patchy of late. Home wins have come against Dynamo Dresden and Greuther Fürth where they struggled mightily. Away from home they’ve had some bad luck. Defeats coming at the hands of Arminia Bielefeld and Jahn Regensburg where the red shorts went down to ten men in both games. To steady the ship, they needed a good performance.
St. Pauli were unbeaten in their previous two matches, both 1-0 wins over Ingolstadt and Paderborn but grinding out results had been their forte in recent weeks. However, this would be their biggest test. To cement themselves as promotion candidates they would need to put in a good showing.
A derby like no other, we saw pretty much everything; crunching tackles, plenty of pyro and an abundance of goals. But the goals were all for Hamburg who produced a dominant display at the Millerntor. In strengthening their hopes for promotion, Hamburg also put a dent in St. Pauli’s ambition for at the very least a play-off spot.
Markus Kauczinski was forced to make three changes to the side that ground out a victory in Paderborn last time out. Mats Møller Dæhli was out due to injury and despite being given up to the last minute to prove his fitness, he was made unavailable. Ersin Zehir was sent off in their victory on Matchday 24 which paved the way for Christopher Buchtmann who was returning from suspension. Richard Neudecker who isn’t in St. Pauli’s future plans was given his first start of 2019 with Waldemar Sobota dropping to the bench.
Hamburg also made a bunch of changes to the side that scraped victory away from Greuther Fürth. Julian Pollersbeck returned after missing the previous fixture with injury, Tom Mickel who deputised well in that game dropping to the bench. Hwang Hee-Chan was out due to injury with Berkay Özcan returning to the starting XI. Bakary Jatta and Lewis Holtby were dropped to the bench in favour of Orel Mangala and Vasilije Janjičić. Hannes Wolf opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mangala and Janjicic operating in the defensive pivots.
Counter-attack becomes counterproductive
From the outset in the Hamburg derby, we saw a statement of intent from St. Pauli and how they were going to combat Hamburg. Remaining compact at the back and then looking to catch Hamburg on the counter-attack. Whilst in principle it makes sense as Hamburg are a possession-heavy team and are patient throughout the build-up, it does create issues when St. Pauli wins possession and attempts to go forward. As we will see from this example.
The initial play comes from a set-piece. Douglas Santos plays the ball towards the far post but it is won by St. Pauli defender Christopher Avevor. The defender heads clear to Neudecker who plays it back to Christopher Buchtmann.
Buchtmann is given time and space to assess the situation which should be to play quickly and counter. But as you can see from the initial movement the Hamburg defence is streaming back in numbers whilst St. Pauli isn’t making enough effort to go forward. Off picture, Sami Allagui is the most advanced player for St. Pauli and is onside if the ball is played to his advantage.
As the ball is played to Allagui he is surrounded by potentially five Hamburg players. If the ball is played in front of him he could run on and make something happen. However, the ball is played a bit behind Allagui forcing the Tunisian to holt and wait for possession.
Due to the delivery from Buchtmann, Rick van Drongelen is able to intercept the pass and give Hamburg possession back. A feature of this tactical choice played into Hamburg’s hand who easily picked off St. Pauli’s attempts to counter.
Unrivalled in possession
As mentioned in the previous section, Hamburg are a possession-heavy side and in fact, lead the 2. Bundesliga in that statistic. It was a trait that Hamburg had under Christian Titz and has continued on the tutorage of Hannes Wolf. With teams choosing to sit back deep when Hamburg is in possession, we see patience in possession leading to good build-up play and laying the foundations for future passages.
With the scores level at 0-0, Hamburg have had control of the game with most of the action taking place in St. Pauli’s defensive half. This passage of play begun close to 30 seconds ago with Hamburg attempting to stretch the St. Pauli defence by switching the ball. Rick van Drongelen has possession and you can see St. Pauli are trying to do two things. One is waiting for Hamburg to get inside their own half to which they’ll attempt to press the ball carrier. Or, have numbers at the back forcing Hamburg to carefully navigate through a crowded space.
As the build-up continues, van Drongelen plays across to his defensive partner David Bates who is looking for a quick option. Aaron Hunt is dropping towards halfway to create an option and by doing so he draws a St. Pauli player with him.
In possession and under some pressure, Hunt is limited in his options. Meier is covering Bates and Allagui is covering van Drongelen. Janjičić has made himself available and moves into an available area to which Hunt can play the ball. The Hamburg captain takes stock and delivers the ball to his teammate.
Janjičić sees the play can develop quickly and plays the ball into space where Orel Mangala can run onto the ball. With St. Pauli’s defence dropping deeper and deeper, Mangala can drive forward with intent and purpose in an attempt to draw out the defence. This scenario ends in a free kick to St. Pauli with Mangala’s heavy touch seeing him lose possession. However, you can see the foundation being laid by Hamburg through strong retention of possession and patiently picking St. Pauli apart.
Toothless St. Pauli
A real theme of St. Pauli’s performance was how poor they were in the final third. In the first half, they rarely made their way into Hamburg’s defensive third. When they did, they lacked any sort of quality to complete an attack which would result in an attempt on goal. The best example of this came late in the first half where a quick attack by St. Pauli outnumbered the Hamburg defence ultimately resulting in nothing.
With St. Pauli on the charge, Christopher Buchtmann is in possession and weighing up his options. Streaming back defensively, Hamburg have van Drongelen as the last line of defence with Bates caught out of position. Mangala spots the danger and sprints back to cover Ryo Miyaichi. St. Pauli have a man advantage on this break with Hamburg on the back foot.
As St. Pauli get closer to the edge of the area, it’s a 4-on-2 breakaway and now Buchtmann is in a situation to play the ball. Miyaichi has some escaped Mangala and a perfectly weighted ball will benefit the Japanese winger. Allagui is in the play but is well covered by van Drongelen.
Buchtmann plays a heavy ball to Miyachi, dispelling any initial danger that St. Pauli provided, but the play isn’t over. Out of shot, Jan-Philipp Kalla is coming forward to present as an option for Miyaichi who isn’t facing the goal. With numbers getting into the area, Miyaichi plays back to Kalla.
Unfortunately for St. Pauli, Kalla’s ball into the area looking for the tall Alexander Meier is equally poor. His cross finds the safe hands of Julian Pollersbeck forcing St. Pauli to retreat. That passage of play really summed up St. Pauli’s performance, lacking any sort of quality to challenge Hamburg’s defence, who at times made themselves vulnerable.
Four-star Hamburger SV
With time winding down from an utterly dominant performance from Hamburg, a little party piece came to the forefront thanks to left-back Douglas Santos. At 3-0 up, you could understand Hamburg playing the time out and holding station. But in the derby, anything goes and the Brazilian couldn’t help himself when the opportunity came about. Quick interplay leading an excellent goal and capping off a four-star performance by Hamburg.
Play resumes from the Hamburg set-piece with Douglas Santos getting play under way. Vasilijie Janjičić is the option backwards and opts to play the ball to the defensive midfielder. St. Pauli are sitting quite deep expecting a ball into the danger area, but Hamburg are only interested in keeping possession.
Alexander Meier begins to press Janjičić in possession who picks out Gotoku Sakai who has fanned off Christopher Buchtmann. Santos makes his move centrally and becomes an option for Sakai. The Japanese international makes a quick pass to Santos.
With Santos back in possession, Johannes Flum attempts to thwart the Hamburg defender by pressing. But his efforts are for nought with Santos easily disposing of the St. Pauli midfielder. Ahead of Santos are a number of brown shirts and no real option. Pierre-Michel Lasogga would’ve been a perfect option but he has strayed offside.
Options at a minimum, Douglas Santos lets fly with a low driven shot on Robin Himmelmann’s goal. The ball squeezes through the two St. Pauli defenders with Himmelmann reacting late. Santos’ shot finds the back of the net to give Hamburg a 4th goal.
With all the build-up of a Hamburg derby, we got everything that we expected, besides a close contest. St. Pauli rarely threatened going forward and there is a firm belief that Markus Kauczinski is at fault for the way they were set up. Despite being the home team, they allowed Hamburg to have control of possession and never really asserted themselves on the game. Whatever was planned in the dressing room didn’t work out and as a result they have to play catch up to Union Berlin.
For Hamburg, this win only cements their case for promotion whilst also giving the club bragging rights over their rivals. It was a much needed performance for Hannes Wolf’s side who had been struggling recently, now they can kick on in their quest for Bundesliga football next season. With less than a third of the season to go, it would seem that the race for promotion is now down to three.