Levante boost European hopes
Xavi Torres scored the winner deep into stoppage time to condemn Villarreal to their fourth defeat in five games and boost Levante's hopes of a top-four finish in La Liga with a 1-0 victory.
Neither side created many chances, but both had goals ruled out in the second half as Torres was adjudged to be just offside as he headed in, while at the other end Nilmar thought he had scored a bizarre winner, but was instead booked for flicking the ball out of Gustavo Munua's hands before tapping into an empty net.
However, in a dramatic finale, Carlos Marchena was sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Valdo and from the resulting free-kick Ruben Suarez's effort struck the inside of the post and left Torres with the easiest of finishes to slot home his third goal of the season.
Despite an awful record on the road this season, a large contingent of Villarreal supporters had made the short trip to Valencia to cheer their side on, but there was little for either set of fans to get excited about in a poor first half. Two deflected Marcos Senna free-kicks were the closest either side came to a serious attempt on goal.
The game livened up a bit in the second period as Valdo and Arouna Kone fired off target when well-placed inside the Villarreal area before Torres thought he had broken the deadlock with a clinical header from Javi Venta's cross, but he had just strayed ahead of the last defender.
Munua then did well to divert Senna's dangerous cross away to safety, but the Uruguayan got lucky with five minutes to go as he appeared to have released the ball by the time Nilmar flicked it beyond him before scoring. However, referee Clos Gomez thought otherwise and awarded a free-kick to the hosts.
The winning goal did arrive right at the end, though, as, after Marchena was given his marching orders, Suarez's brilliant free-kick was tipped onto the post by Diego Lopez. The rebound, though, fell kindly for Torres to secure an important three points in Levante's push for European football next season.