Goalkeeper Rico stars in Sevilla victory

Madrid (AFP) –


Sergio Rico was the hero for Sevilla with a penalty save and several key interventions as his side boosted their European hopes with a 1-0 win over Girona in La Liga on Sunday.

The only goal of the game at a sunny Sanchez Pizjuan was scored just over 30 seconds into the second half, with Pablo Sarabia making sure the ball went in after a Joaquin Correa effort was stopped on the line.

But, before that, Rico had intervened to prevent the home side going behind just prior to the interval, diving to his right to save an Aday Benitez penalty awarded for a handball by Luis Muriel.

The Spanish international goalkeeper made several key saves, including one to deny Portu from point-blank range with just two minutes left, as Sevilla reclaimed sixth place in La Liga from Eibar, 1-0 winners at Leganes on Saturday.

The victory comes as a big boost to Sevilla following their win over Leganes in midweek that took them through to April's Copa del Rey final, in which they will face Barcelona.

Vincenzo Montella's side, who host Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on February 21, have struggled for consistency recently.

They are currently four points behind fourth-placed Valencia, who host local rivals Levante later on Sunday.

Real Madrid moved back up to third with a comprehensive 5-2 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday night in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick for the first time this season.

Atletico Madrid, in second, moved to within six points of unbeaten league leaders Barcelona with a 1-0 win at bottom side Malaga on Saturday thanks to Antoine Griezmann's early goal.

However, Barcelona can stretch their lead back to nine points by beating Getafe at the Camp Nou later (1515 GMT).