Robert Žulj’s early penalty set them on their way, with Maxim Leitsch adding a second after half-time.
St. Pauli offered very little in the game, despite Ryo Miyaichi hitting the crossbar, and concerns will remain over getting dragged into the relegation battle in the final weeks of the season.
Worrying times under Luhukay
Bochum ended a six-year winless run against the cult club, but the defeat was another worrying sign for a team that has not won outside Hamburg this season (it’s only away win was in the derby with Hamburger SV in September) and Jos Luhukay’s side put in another lifeless performance here.
Luhukay’s scattergun selection policy saw Marvin Senger and Christian Viet handed debuts here. Senger, who was one of their better players on the day, came in with Daniel Buballa and James Lawrence injured, but Viet was preferred in midfield ahead of several more senior options.
Luhukay’s unpredictability, not to mention his frequent public criticism of his own players, are hardly recipes for success and this lacklustre performance followed a disappointing English week. Viktor Gyökeres and Dimitrios Diamantakos were very quiet, whilst there were only six attempts made, only one of which was on target.
Luhakay felt his side “didn’t really get into the game,” and were unable to find any rhythm or attacking threat. He also felt that the penalty was key to the defeat. “It has happened to us too often in the last few games that we have given away penalty kicks due to unnecessary fouls and are thus lagging behind,” he said.
They are only five points ahead of the bottom three and need at least three more points from their last four games to be sure of their place in the league next season. Bochum, on the other hand, are in much safer waters now, and one shy of the magic 40-point mark, Thomas Reis seems to have steered them to safety.
Early penalty cements Bochum control
St. Pauli wore their black third kit here, seemingly in memory of George Floyd, whose death after being knelled on a police officer has sparked the mass protests and unrest in the United States in support of Black Lives Matter. If the players had any topical statements in mind for goal celebrations, they didn’t get a chance to display them.
St. Pauli started a sense with urgency but it quickly fizzled out and Bochum began to take control. That was rewarded 15 minutes in, when Leo Østigård brought down Milos Pantović just inside the box. Robin Himmelmann had saved a penalty against Karlsruher SC last week, but he went the wrong way here, Žulj to put Bochum ahead.
The hosts stayed on top, with wingers Pantović and Jordi Osei-Tutu having good games. They combined ten minutes after the penalty, with the Englishman’s cross headed on target by Pantović, only for Himmelmann to make the save.
St. Pauli would improve after that and began to create some chances, with Miyaichi coming closest. He directly benefited from Žulj giving the ball away, but his effort scrapped off the front side of the bar.
Despite ending the half well, the visitors were lucky not to go in further behind at the break. An attempted clearance from Waldemar Sobota only found Pantović, who put it in the box for Manual Wintzheimer, on loan from Hamburg, to score. Or so he thought. Pantović appeared to have used a hand in controlling the ball, so the goal was disallowed after a VAR check.
VfL in cruise control
There was more frustration for the young striker, who started with Silvère Ganvoula not fully fit, soon after the break. Osei-Tutu managed to squeeze a ball past several defenders to find Pantović, who teed up Wintzheimer to net again. Again, Pantoivć’s actions saw the goal disallowed, this time for standing in an offside position. Robert Tesche had come close just before that, with Himmelmann keeping out his header.
St. Pauli did show some flourishes, but couldn’t find a way through a well-organised Bochum side that would take a fifth clean sheet in six games here – almost unthinkable earlier in the season. Danilo Soares was particularly noticeably defensively, blocking a Sebastian Ohlsson cross to go alongside an excellent interception in the first half.
Bochum finally doubled their lead with just over quarter-of-an-hour to go. Žulj was heavily involved again, taking the corner which his initial effort had won. Miyaichi lost defender Letisch in the box, and the 22-year-old volleyed in for his first professional goal.
St. Pauli offered little in return, other than a late shot from Finn Ole Becker which went wide. Substitute Ganvoula struck over in stoppage time for Bochum, but the win already looked secure at this stage. Bochum’s record as the best team since the restart continues, they sit sixth in the table ahead of the rest of the weekend’s game, and now have significantly less concerns than their visitors.
“We are extremely happy that we were able to continue our run,” said Reis afterwards. Although he feels his side are “one step closer” to their goal of staying up, perhaps privately he will know that the battle is already won.
Bochum: Riemann; Gamboa (Bella-Kotchap 90’), Lampropoulos, Leitsch, Soares; Losilla, Tesche (Eisfeld 66’); Osei-Tutu (Fabian 90+3’), Žulj, Pantović; Wintzheimer (Ganvoula 66’).
St. Pauli: Himmelmann; Zander, Senger (Avevor 74‘), Østigård, Ohlsson; Flum (Benatelli 59‘), Viet (Becker 59‘); Gyökeres, Sobota (Franzke 66‘), Miyaichi (Veerman 74‘); Diamantakos.
Goals: Zulj (15‘ P), Leitsch (73‘).
Referee: Florian Heft.
Elsewhere on Friday
SV Sandhausen kept up their excellent form in the day’s other game, beating SpVgg
Greuther Fürth 2-1. Kevin Behrens converted an early penalty to opening scoring before Julian Biada added a second before half time. Daniel Keita-Ruel pulled one back for the hosts in the second half.