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David Trezeguet and Borja Valero scored and were sent off as Hercules scrapped to a 2-2 Liga draw at home to Villarreal, who ended the game with nine men.
Villarreal could have gone one point clear of La Liga leaders Real Madrid with victory, but a combination of poor discipline from them and a tenacious performance from promoted Hercules combined to leave the in-form Yellow Submarine joint-second with Barcelona and Valencia.
Nelson Haedo Valdez put the home side ahead before Spain full-back Joan Capdevila levelled in a hurly-burly first half between two teams committed to attack.
Former France striker Trezeguet put the hosts in front on 40 minutes but was sent off soon afterwards after picking up two quick yellow cards for dissent.
Valero, on loan from West Brom, levelled 18 minutes into the second half but he saw red late on after a deliberate handball, having already been cautioned, also for speaking out of turn.
And Villarreal spurned the chance to go top with a win after defender Mateo Musacchio - who was at fault for the opening goal - was shown a straight red for a last-man foul on Royston Drenthe, leaving them with nine men for the final 10 minutes.
An entertaining opening saw Villarreal hit the woodwork through Nilmar, while for Hercules Trezeguet missed a free header before Valdez opened the scoring on 26 minutes.
A Drenthe free-kick from wide should have been easy to deal with but the visiting defence went to sleep to allow a straightforward finish for the Paraguay World Cup star.
Villarreal responded fiercely, as Santi Cazorla (pictured) forced a smart save from Jose Calatayud before Capdevila tapped in Angel’s cross to equalise just two minutes later.
Giuseppe Rossi hit the post with a long-range effort as the Yellow Submarine edged closer to a second, but it was Hercules who went ahead again when Angel made a mess of clearing Drenthe’s right-wing cross, allowing Trezeguet to smash the loose ball into the roof of the net in typical poacher’s style.
Trezeguet’s night ended soon afterwards when, on 44 minutes, he was shown two yellow cards in two seconds for dissent.
The former France striker was angry that Valero was not given a second booking for a foul on Valdez, who himself was cautioned for protesting.
It seemed a touch card-happy but in truth Hercules were lucky not to have been reduced to nine by that point, as former Tottenham and Portsmouth defender Noe Pamarot escaped a second yellow for a cynical tug on Nilmar while Drenthe should have been sent straight off for a knee-high tackle on Marcos Senna, who came off soon afterwards.
Villarreal sensed an opportunity and, from the start of the second half, dominated the play.
Calatayud made excellent stops from a Nilmar chip and a Rossi header before Valero pounced on a loose ball in the box to drill a low finish into the bottom left from an angle.
It was only just after the hour mark but Hercules were hanging on as Villarreal lay camp on the edge of their penalty area, although there was a chance for a third on the counter when Thiago Gomes failed to pass to the unmarked Drenthe before firing well wide.
The hosts had another chance on the break, fashioned by the livewire Drenthe, who raced clear from halfway but was denied by a superb stop from Diego Lopez.
Cazorla had a sighter with 13 minutes left, curling just wide as Juan Carlos Garrido’s side pushed for a winner.
But they were leaving gaps at the back as shown when Pamarot almost connected with a diving header, Lopez well placed to claim.
The game was as open as it had been but Villarreal lost two men in quick succession as the red mist descended.
First Valero - who was lucky to be on the pitch after his first-half exploits - was harshly adjudged to have deliberately handled on 81 minutes, and two minutes later last-man Musacchio received his marching orders after tangling with Drenthe just inside the Villarreal half.
It was Villarreal’s turn to hang on, as Lopez made consecutive injury-time saves from a Drenthe free-kick and an Abraham Paz header.
But Hercules could not exploit 10 minutes with a one-man advantage and the spoils were shared in Alicante.