It was surely a surreal day for Stani and his coaches André Trulsen and Klaus-Peter Nemet, all of whom previously coached FC St Pauli, having to prepare for the game in the away team dressing room. All three men received a fantastic reception from the St Pauli fans, who made up most of the 13,856 crowd.
Stanislawski used the team's last friendly before the team's return to domestic action next week against Hannover 96 to experiment with his side. With Isaac Vorsah away on African Cup of Nations duty and Marvin Compper injured, Daniel Williams and Kevin Conrad were given the responsibility in the centre of defence. Captain Andreas Beck, Ryan Babel, Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wieser, Roberto Firmino, Jannik Vestergaard, Dominik Kaiser, Tobias Strobl, Daniel Haas and Joseph Gyau started the game from the bench.
It was a competitive game at the MIllertor stadium, as both teams displayed the earnest preparation they have been doing for the second half of the season. The first chance of the game came after six minutes through 1899's top scorer this season Vedad Ibisevic, but he was thwarted by a good save by Pauli keeper Benedikt Pliquett after a fantastic interception by Boris Vukcevic. For the home team, Deniz Naki went through on goal, but TSG stopper Tom Starke narrowed the angle very quickly and the striker's shot flew wide of the far corner (11).
Starke brought off
It proved to be the last meaningful action from Hoffenheim's no. 1. He pulled up sharply in the 23rd minute with what looked like a strained groin and was replaced by Daniel Haas as a safety measure by the manager. The early loss of Starke might have knocked the Sinsheim outfit out of their stride, but they maintained a high level of concentration and soon took the lead. Ibisevic raced on to a loose ball and rounded Pliquett, who caught the Bosnian striker in the penalty area. A spot-kick was promptly given by the referee and it was Ibisevic's international teammate Sejad Salihovic who stepped up confidently to dispatch the ball into the top-right corner (36). Ibisevic went close to adding to the lead two minutes later, when he headed narrowly over the bar. Pauli, under pressure for large parts of the half, then found a way back into the game just before half-time. Kevin Schindler collected a pass and dribbled to the edge of the box, where he curled a delightful equaliser into the top corner, past the dive of Haas (43).
The second half began in slightly chaotic fashion for the match officials. St Pauli made eight substitutions, while Holger Stanislawski made a further six, bringing on Beck, Babel, Rudy, Vestergaard, Kaiser and Firmino. Only goalkeeper Haas, Edson Braafheid, Williams, Fabian Johnson and Knowledge Musona stayed on the pitch for the second half from the team which started the game. Vestergaard came into the centre of defence to partner Williams.
The home side, buoyed by scoring just before the interval, came out in determined fashion for the second period and went close to taking the lead. Sebastian Schachten, on as a half time substitute, directed a header just wide of Haas' goal (49), and Mahir Saglik was denied by a fantastic save from the keeper five minutes later. Hoffenheim's rhythm seemed to have been interrupted since half time, and they had some difficulty establishing a foothold in midfield and retaining possession. Just after the hour mark, Ryan Babel embarked on a trademark solo run, firing his effort just over the bar, but it seemed to spur Stani's team into life. Stani then decided to introduce his last three substitutes in the form of U-23 stars Tobias Strobl and Joseph-Claude Gyau, along with new signing Sandro Wieser for Williams, Musona and Johnson.
Babel wins it
Ryan Babel seemed to have the bit between his teeth. After finding space in the box with a neat stepover, he played a delightful cross into the path of Kaiser, but the midfielder's composure deserted him and his weak shot missed the target (75). Six minutes later, Babel then went for goal himself and forced Pliquett into another smart stop. The game was heading for a draw, before Babel left his mark on the game with a flourish. Sidestepping two Pauli defenders, he pulled the trigger from the edge of the box, and the ball found its way into the bottom corner (86).
It was the last action of an otherwise even game. Holger Stanislawski will be pleased to end the team's preparations on a winning note before the big game with Hannover 96 next Saturday.
FC St. Pauli: Pliquett, Volz (Schachten, 46) , Zambrano (Morena, 46), Kalla (Gunesch, 46) Thorandt (Rothenbach, 59), Bruns (Funk, 46), Boll (Daube, 46), Naki (Bartels, 46), Kruse (Filipovic, 66), Ebbers (Sliskovic, 46), Schindler (Saglik, 46)
1899 Hoffenheim: Starke (Haas, 23), Johnson (Wieser, 62), Williams (Strobl, 62), Conrad (Vestergaard, 46), Braafheid, Salihovic (Kaiser, 46), Weis (Rudy, 46), Vukcevic (Babel, 46), Musona (Gyau, 46), Mlapa (Beck, 46), Ibisevic (Firmino, 46)
Goals: 0-1 Salihovic (pen, 36), 1-1 Schindler (43), 1-2 Babel (86)