Villlarreal holds Euro hopefuls Espanyol

Villarreal barely helped their relegation fight following a forgettable goalless draw against European hopefuls Espanyol at El Madrigal.

Both sides had the ball in the net, but both were ruled out for questionable fouls.

Marco Ruben thought he had scored for the hosts in the first half when he poked in after Espanyol goalkeeper Francisco Casilla fumbled only for the referee to whistle.

Villarreal then thought they had a penalty for a foul on Borja Valero before Espanyol were denied when Raul Rodriguez’s finish was ruled out for an earlier foul on Diego Lopez.

The draw left Villarreal four points above the relegation zone while Espanyol have a two-point gap to bridge behind the Europa League places.

A disappointing first half was only highlighted by Ruben’s moment of controversy.

Espanyol goalkeeper Casilla fumbled Javier Camunas’ header from a corner and with the ball seemingly loose Ruben dived in to poke the ball over the line.

But before he could celebrate the referee whistled for a foul to the dismay of the home side.

Espanyol’s only threat came via diminutive striker Kalu Uche who, after being picked out by Sergio Garcia’s right-wing cross, jumped highest at the back post only to power his header narrowly across the face of goal.

Espanyol should have been ahead moments after half-time when Uche was sent through on goal but after his low drive was kept out the ball looped up for Vila Didac who headed over from six yards under slight pressure.

At the other end Valero, one of the game’s few bright sparks, went down under a desperate tackle from Juan Forlin but the referee waved away their penalty protests.

It was Espanyol’s turn to feel aggrieved moments later when Lopez dropped a corner and, while Rodriguez turned the ball in, the referee claimed the home goalkeeper had been fouled as he attempted to make the catch.

Villarreal had a couple of chances to snatch a win, thanks to Ruben, who had a second goal correctly ruled out for offside before his first-time volley was turned away.