Dusseldorf down poor Hamburg
Fri, 23 Nov 2012 22:19:00
Jack Wilshere believes he is progressing with every appearance, but the Arsenal midfielder feels it will be Christmas before he is 'back to his best'.
The England international returned from 17 months on the sidelines due to ankle and knee injuries when making his comeback against Queens Park Rangers at the end of October.
He has made a further four appearances for the Gunners and agrees with his manager Arsene Wenger that it will be another month before he is at his optimum level again.
"I had never been injured, so how long it will take for me to come back is hard [to say], but I feel good," Wilshere told Arsenal Player.
"On Wednesday night [against Montpellier] we started the game off sloppily, and I was one of those who kept giving the ball away. That's tough when you come back and start badly in a game. But we've got great players here and they keep you going.
"Percentage-wise, I'm probably 80 to 85. I'm feeling better and better with every game and I think I heard the boss say at Christmas you'll see me back to my best. I think that's probably a reasonable timescale."
The 20-year-old is also grateful to Wenger for showing his faith by starting him in the recent high-profile games against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
He added: "It doesn't get any tougher than that - Man United away and then Tottenham at home - but they're the games that I want to be involved in.
"That's the Premier League. You're not going to have an easy game in the Premier League, even if you play the so-called lesser teams. They're never easy. The Premier League is known for its intensity and that's the same throughout all the teams.
"The quality might get a bit better and the games might get a bit tougher and you get a few more nerves but the boss showed faith in me. I needed games under my belt and he gave me them, so I'm thankful for that."
Both sides had the chance to move to the top of the standings, level on points with Lyon, with a win on Friday night, but it was the hosts who prevailed as they extended their unbeaten run to nine matches.
They dominated throughout at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and deservedly sealed all three points when Hamouma netted after Valenciennes had failed to clear their lines in the 73rd minute.
The two teams have been the surprise challengers this season, although St Etienne midfielder Renaud Cohade was not willing to rest on his laurels against a team who had lost just once in their last seven matches before tonight.
But any hopes of a clash to savour were dashed in a first half of relatively few clear-cut chances.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang volleyed wide of the target from just outside the area, while at the other end Valenciennes midfielder Mathieu Dossevi evaded the challenges of several home defenders and burst into the area, although he lost his footing at a crucial point and could only direct a tame shot at Stephane Ruffier.
Dossevi then brilliantly tracked back to stop Max Gradel from latching on to Francois Clerc's cross, while Aubameyang was denied from a narrow angle by Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau.
St Etienne, perhaps sensing an opportunity at home, upped the ante in the second half, with Aubameyang once again thumping over before forcing Penneteau to make two fine saves.
But there was nothing the Valenciennes keeper could do when Hamouma netted following a goalmouth scramble 17 minutes before the end, with the midfielder firing home after a flick-on from Cohade.
They managed to hang on to their lead to ensure they top the table for the next 24 hours at least.
Goals from Robbie Kruse and Stefan Reisinger secured the win.
Hamburg had two goals disallowed and they also lost influential midfielder Rafael van der Vaart to injury, but they could have no complaints about losing with the home side showing more fight.
Kruse put the promoted side in front in first-half stoppage-time before Reisinger struck in the 63rd minute to seal the points and take Fortuna out of the bottom three.
The game struggled to get going, although it was always the home side who seemed likely to spark it into life.
Hamburg played a defensive game and looked for chances on the counter-attack, one of which led to Marcus Berge heading over and another to Maximilian Beister's shot being deflected wide for a corner.
The visitors then lost Van der Vaart to a hamstring injury as he pulled up while chasing the ball.
Shortly afterward Michael Mancienne thought he had given the northern Germany side the lead, but his goal was ruled out for offside.
There was no doubt about Kruse's goal, though, as the Australian's shot deflected off Mancienne and inside Rene Adler's near post at the end of the first half.
The second 45 minutes was almost a carbon copy of the first with Hamburg seeing another goal ruled out, this time Heiko Westermann's free-kick, due to a push in the wall.
Instead Fortuna took the chance to double their lead and put the game beyond Hamburg.
Reisinger bustled his way into the penalty area, dribbling past two Hamburg defenders, before beating Adler which finish into the top left-hand corner.