The result was harsh on Ewald Lienen’s men, who matched their opponents throughout a tight and intriguing contest.
However the Portuguese winger Mané from the bench proved the difference, leaving St. Pauli three points from Arminia Bielefeld, and Stuttgart just behind Braunschweig at the top on goal difference.
New signings all handed starts
Since Stuttgart’s victory over St. Pauli in their opening game of the season, both sides have been subject to vastly different fortunes. Whilst it hasn’t always been easy, Stuttgart are right in the promotion race, but St. Pauli have spent most of the season in last place.
The hosts, who at least finished before the winter break unbeaten in three, refreshed up their squad by bringing in Lennart Thy, Mats Möller Daehli (both on loan) and Johannes Flum (permanently). All three were among the seven players brought in from the 1-1 draw with VfL Bochum in December. There was also a debut for defender Yi-Young Park.
Stuttgart ended before Christmas with a surprisingly heavy 3-0 defeat at Würzburger Kickers, and like St. Pauli they rung the changes, with five players coming in. Julian Green, their new arrival from Bayern Munich, was also giving a start from the off, although his debut would only last 45 minutes before being substituted at the break.
Limited chance sin first half
Both sides did well to keep each other relatively quiet in attack in the first half, with only a handful of clear cut chances between them. Mitch Langerak had to be on guard to deal with a Cenk Sahin cross however. It was in fact heading in, and the goalkeeper had to flip it over the bar to make sure it stayed out.
The first great chance fell to Stuttgart’s Takuma Asano, on loan from Arsenal. Receiving a good pass from Emiliano Insúa, his shot was kept out by Philipp Heerwagen. At the other end, Langerak similarly denied Daniel Buballa after his run into the box.
As the half went on both sides had one further good chance to score. For St. Pauli, Sahin rushed into the box, and despite losing the ball, he got it back but had his shot saved by Langerak. Simon Terodde meanwhile was able to track back to meet a cross from Christian Gentner, but he put it over the bar.
Mané plays the joker
Much like the first half, the second was a fairly even affair, and it would have been difficult to tell which sides were chasing promotion and battling relegation. Chances, however, remained at a premium.
Stuttgart had a superb chance though when Mané, who was brought on for Green at the break, played through Asano. The Japanese forward tried to get it over Heerwagen, but his shot lacked the necessary direction.
With just over five minutes left, Stuttgart won it. From a quick break. Terodde played it forward, via a deflection, to Mané, and the man introduced at half time struck it sweetly first time, over Heerwagen and into the top of the net.
Following Braunschweig’s draw with Würzburg on Saturday, it meant that Stuttgart could put only goal difference between them. But the worrying times show no sign of clearing just yet, especially as Erzgebirge Aue’s win over 1. FC Heidenheim had seen them pull further ahead at the bottom.