Navarro handball gifts Valencia win over Sevilla
A bizarre handball by Sevilla defender Fernando Navarro gave away a late penalty which helped Valencia to a 3-1 comeback home win in the Primera Liga on Sunday.
Sevilla were stubbornly hanging on for a 1-1 draw with 10 men, having lost Adriano Correia to a red card in the first half, when Navarro flung his arm up and handled an overhit cross at the back post in the 83rd minute.
Juan Mata dispatched his team's second penalty of the match, after David Villa had converted a spot kick just before the break to cancel out Julien Escude's early header.
Valencia substitute Pablo Hernandez wrapped up the scoring on a counter-attack in the dying minutes to make it four wins from four for the hosts.
Navarro was at a loss to explain the handball in quotes carried on the Sevilla website (www.sevillafc.es):
"I can't deny I touched the ball with my hand but it wasn't intentional," he said. "I don't know if I just miscalculated my jump or whether he (David Silva) pushed me, but it was a clear penalty. The game was decided by my error."
Unai Emery's side moved back up to fourth place and into the last Champions League qualification slot with 52 points, five behind third-placed Sevilla.
Barcelona continue to lead the standings by six points from champions Real Madrid after both sides won away on Saturday.
Barca have 78 points with seven games left after winning 1-0 at Getafe, while Real were 1-0 victors at Recreativo Huelva.
Earlier, Villarreal's chances of returning to the Champions League suffered another setback when they were held 0-0 at Real Valladolid.
Manuel Pellegrini's side, dumped out of this season's competition at the quarter-final stage by Arsenal last week, were short on ideas in Valladolid.
The hosts lost defender Inaki Bea to a red card for a foul in the area early in the second half, but Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi put the penalty over the crossbar and they failed to make the extra man count.
It was Villarreal's third league match in a row without a win and they lie sixth with 49 points, behind Atletico Madrid who beat Numancia 3-0 on Saturday.
In the battle to avoid relegation, an Ivan Alonso header earned Espanyol a 1-0 win at home to Racing Santander which dragged them off the bottom.
They climbed one point above Numancia into 19th, one short of Recreativo and four points behind Sporting Gijon and safety.
Achille Emana scored twice as Real Betis secured a rare home win with victory over Sporting Gijon.
Betis had failed to win a league game at their Manuel Ruiz de Lopera stadium since downing Racing Santander 3-1 back in November and each of their last six competitive matches played there had finished in draws.
Emana finally gave the home fans something to cheer about, though, as he thumped home a sublime volley in the first half before doubling the lead with a tap-in midway through the second.
Alvaro Negredo struck twice, including an 89th-minute winner, to earn Almeria a potentially crucial 2-1 victory over fellow relegation battlers Osasuna.
Almeria left it late to take the points after Walter Pandiani had left them stunned with an 84th-minute leveller.