Football games have the peculiarity that they sometimes tell a huge story that isn’t all that big in the end. Like on Friday evening: What could have set this scene in motion? The story would have been huge if the game had continued as the pictures suggested up to that point. Pictures that show how the HSV goalkeeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes receives a mean back pass, how the ball bounces rather than rolls on the bumpy surface, how Heuer Fernandes swings out with his right foot just in front of the post to get rid of the problem with an emergency shot – and how he then volleyed the ball into the net from one meter because he made his meanest jump right before the rescue operation.
The scene, that is the bad news for the otherwise so reliable Heuer Fernandes, has long since been made into internet memes that are being shared from Saarland to Indonesia. The story behind it, that is the good news for the goalkeeper, lost some of its symbolic power by the final whistle. When Heuer Fernandes scored into his own goal after 27 minutes, it was 2-0 for city rivals FC St. Pauli, and a debacle for HSV appeared to be in the immediate horizon. In the end it was 2:2. And from the perspective of the traditional club, that was worth a lot.
Is HSV’s comeback story enough to turn it into a promotion story?
A defeat in the Hamburg city derby, especially a significant one, would have evoked a sense of crisis at HSV that they would not have been able to get rid of until Christmas. As a result of the draw, they are now only three points away from league leaders St. Pauli, a gap that is often summarized with the phrase “immediate striking distance”. And above all: At HSV they worked again on their narrative, which is something of a defining motif during coach Tim Walter’s two and a half year tenure. When things look bleak, the team always manages to come back somehow – in individual games, but also in phases within an entire season. The only question is: Is this eternal comeback story enough to turn it into a promotion story?
“We had planned more,” said Heuer Fernandes. His mishap was “unfortunate at best,” he added, but he was once again speaking with the authority of a goalkeeper who was able to reduce his error rate over the course of the game and therefore rehabilitate himself. And that was a far bumpier road than any sprint across the frosty ground in the Millerntorstadion could have been: every touch of the ball by Heuer Fernandes was gleefully accompanied by the St. Pauli fans, who cheered him as if he had a Paulian logo instead of a diamond logo Skull on his chest – anyone who knows his complex role as a game-shaping passing machine in goal wall gloves will suspect that that must have been a huge dose of malice.
It speaks for Heuer Fernandes and HSV that they have regained a coolness in the wild Hamburg snowstorm that only a few teams can manage. Another thing that speaks in Hamburg’s favor is that they didn’t over-discuss the poor performance of referee Felix Zwayer: Before St. Pauli’s Jackson Irvine made it 1-0 (15th minute), HSV midfielder Jonas Meffert was knocked over in his own penalty area, an offense that which in practice is more likely to be punished than not punished. And the goal kick taken briefly by Heuer Fernandes, which shortly afterwards came back to him as a hopping back pass and led to the scene of the game, should actually have been repeated because two St. Pauli players were on the penalty area line when it was taken. Very delicate, but clearly visible in the repeats – repeats that obviously neither Zwayer nor the Cologne Keller wanted to watch again.
Striker Glatzel complained that HSV first had to “fall on its face and then wake up”.
What doesn’t speak for HSV, however, is the way they played football: The Kiezkickers were ahead in all relevant statistics, they had the ball more often, they passed more often and more precisely, they ran more and shot at the opponent’s goal three times more often. St. Pauli coach Fabian Hürzeler could justifiably claim that his team only needed the goal to make it 3-0 to “kill” the derby in the first half. At times it seemed as if a meticulous coaching team was playing against an HSV team that didn’t know exactly what it wanted to be or where it wanted to go. And this impression was not defused by the fact that the Walter team turned a possible disgrace into a mood-enhancing evening with a quick combination of goals from Robert Glatzel (58th) and Immanuel Pherai (60th), which was proof of Hamburg’s intrinsic recovery qualities player is suitable – but not for a game idea that turns what are probably the best individuals in the second league into a group that is at least as good as the sum of its parts.
In any case, striker Glatzel complained afterwards that HSV always had to “fall on its face and then wake up”. It’s always an exciting story worth telling – but the reliable final punchline hasn’t led the traditional club to where it wants to go: back to the first league.