Late Alaba strike saves 1899's blushes

It's the 8th draw of the season for 1899 Hoffenheim, which means they are still searching for their first win of the New Year. Playing in front of the Rhein-Neckar Arena crowd, the Kraichgau outfit took on St. Pauli, but could only manage a 2-2 draw despite taking the lead in the match. Marvin Compper scored the opener before Kruse and Asamoah gave the visitors a surprise lead, but new signing David Alaba was on hand to score a late equaliser to spare the home side's blushes.

On his debut in front of the home fans, new manager Marco Pezzaiuoli made one change from the side that lost to Werder Bremen in his first match. Sejad Salihovic returned to the starting line-up having completed his one match suspension, while Peniel Mlapa dropped to the bench. Elsewhere, Tom Starke lined-up in goal, while Andreas Beck, Isaac Vorsah, Marvin Compper and Andreas Ibertsberger made up the back four. Tobias Weis and Sebastian Rudy started alongside Salihovic with the three-pronged attack consisting of Boris Vukcevic, David Alaba and Vedad Ibisevic.

The opening exchanges were very much a feeling out period for both the teams as they searched for ideas, but Hoffenheim were working the ball better and playing at a higher tempo. Just as Pezzaiuoli predicted the game was a very patient affair. St. Pauli overloaded their own half and were giving the hosts very little room to operate within, while their attacking strategy was centred on a strong counter attack. Hoffenheim really should have taken the lead early on though when St. Pauli tried and failed to employ the offside trap from a Salihovic free kick. It left Marvin Compper completely unmarked in front of goal, but he skied his effort over the bar when he really should have done better. Max Kruse then went down the other end only to pull his shot wide of the left hand post. 1899 Hoffenheim then began imposing themselves on the match, however, goal scoring chances were few and far between. Then in the 29th minute Compper made up for his earlier miss to give the home side the lead. Sebastian Rudy whipped in a fantastic free kick from the left, which feel right at the feet of Compper who volleyed home for a deserved 1-0. Kruse almost replied instantly down the other end getting his effort on target only to see Starke tip the effort away from goal. The rest of the half passed by without incident sending Hoffenheim into half time with a one goal lead.

No changes were made by either side at half time, but the second half was very different in contrast to the first. The Hamburg outfit continued to hit on the counter as the dropped deep and it almost cost them when Vedad Ibisevic saw his effort deflect of a Pauli defender. The shot looked destined to find the bottom corner, but Thomas Kessler provided the heroics to keep the lead to one. Missed chances cost the home side minutes later when Max Kruse finally found the net to score the equaliser. The Hoffenheim defence were caught napping and, after the referee allowed play to go on when Vorsah clashed with Asamoah, the ball feel kindly for the youngster who slotted into the bottom right hand corner past Starke. The goal put the wind in the sails of the visitors and with some lovely one-touch football you could tell they believed there was more than a draw on offer for them. Hoffenheim were again settling into the rhythm of building up the play, while Pauli looked dangerous on the break and Charles Takyi was unlucky to see his 75th minute shot cannon back off the cross bar. Then after a mix-up at the back by a over zealous Isaac Vorsah a cross from the left flank found its' way through to Gerald Asamoah who powered his shot past Tom Starke from 6 yards giving the keeper no chance and his side the lead for the first time in the match. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Peniel Mlapa were promptly introduced to inject some pace and purpose into the 1899 attack. The home side went forward in waves and St. Pauli looked to be handling the danger. Then just before the 90 minutes was up confusion and chaos just outside the Pauli box saw the ball pinging around uncontrollably. It then ran clear into the path of David Alaba who didn't hesitate in shooting from distance. His shot took a deflection on its way through and left Kessler planted between the sticks as he watched the ball nestle in the back of his net. The goal saved Pezzaiuoli the humiliation of losing his first home match, but again Hoffenheim's lack of a killer instinct costs them.


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