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2. Bundesliga

St. Pauli’s key 5 games on the road promotion

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Back in the Bundesliga for the first time since 2011, we pick out five games that stood out in St. Pauli’s promotion push in 2023/24.

St. Pauli 5-1 Holstein Kiel

Although Die Kiezkicker have led the table for most of this season, it took them a while to actually get going. The kickstart finally came on Matchday 6 when they welcomed early high-flyers Kiel to the Millerntor. Pauli had drawn their previous four games, including three 0-0 draws, since a win on the opening weekend and weren’t exactly looking promotion candidates until they took apart Holstein.

Two peaches from Connor Metcalfe and Eric Smith had the hosts ahead inside seven minutes before Oladapo Afolayan made it 3-0 before the break with Pauli’s third effort of the day. Lewis Holtby got one back shortly after the restart, but Fabian Hürzeler’s men pulled out two more long-range efforts through Lars Ritzka and Marcel Hartel to chalk up their joint-biggest win of the season and launch their promotion push.

Watch: St. Pauli 5-1 Holstein Kiel - highlights

St. Pauli 2-1 Karlsruhe

A further three wins and a draw then propelled Pauli into first place by the time they hosted Karlsruhe in late October. Their unbeaten start looked to be on the verge of ending when former Kiezicker striker Igor Matanovic struck against the run of play for the visitors.

A well-taken finish from Johannes Eggestein brought things level with 10 minutes to play at the Millerntor before substitute Philipp Treu pounced at a corner two minutes into added time to snatch all three points and keep Pauli at the summit, after Fortuna Düsseldorf had earlier moved into pole position with 11 games gone.

Watch: St. Pauli 2-1 Karlsruhe - highlights

St. Pauli 3-2 Greuther Fürth

Going into Matchday 20, Pauli led now second-place Greuther by four points after the Colverleaves had whipped up a nine-game unbeaten run. That sequence included seven wins, including a 2-0 victory over Kiel the week prior.

Pauli flew out the traps, appearing to be keen on laying down a serious marker against their nearest rivals. Two goals in three minutes put them 2-0 to the good through Elias Saad and Afolayan and the result looked a formality. That was until Armando Sieb and Simon Asta struck either side of the break to make it 2-2. It appeared both sides would settle for a share of the spoils but Pauli weren't to be denied; Saad popping up with the winner nine minutes from time.

Watch: St Pauli 3-2 Greuther Fürth - highlights

Holstein Kiel 3-4 St. Pauli

A week after beating Fürth, Pauli fell to their first defeat of the campaign against Magdeburg but by the time they travelled to second-place Kiel, they had bounced back with a narrow 1-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig. Defeat to Kiel would have brought the two promotion rivals level on points but Pauli rose to the occasion. Once again, though, they almost threw away a major early advantage.

This time around they held a 3-0 lead by half-time as Hartel's effort was bookended by Afolayan's early double. Shuto Machino struck back on 53 minutes before Metcalfe restored their three-goal lead. That should have been it but Kiel added two more late on to serve up a tense finish, which Kiel just about survived. Pauli's reward was opening up a six-point jump to their hosts.

Watch: Holstein Kiel 3-4 St. Pauli - highlights

Hannover 1-2 St. Pauli

Going into Matchday 30, Pauli fans would have been nervous. Having seen their side wobble at the business end of so many previous campaigns, it appeared that old habits were rising to the surface. That's because they had lost each of their previous two matches, seeing a five point advantage to Kiel on Matchday 27 be turned into a one point deficit as they relinquished top spot. Furthermore, their 11-point lead over third-place Fortuna Düsseldorf had been cut to just five.

Afolayan again settled early nerves with his seventh goal of the campaign but Lars Gindorf's tap-in at the back post on half-time - from a hopefully long through on the far left side - brought Hannover level at the break. A point would have left Pauli three games without a win, three points off top and just three ahead of third. At this stage of the season, it would have represented a precarious position, but up stepped Eggestein with the winner on 65 minutes. Top spot was regained a week later, setting the club back on course for promotion - a job they finished off by beating Osnabrück 3-1 on Matchday 33.

Watch: Hannover 1-2 St. Pauli - highlights

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